A few months ago I was invited to check out WP Engine. While I had heard about managed WordPress hosting companies like Page.ly before I had never considered paying such a premium for hosting a WordPress site. After all – I already had a Dreamhost and a Hostgator account and was very happy with both of those services.
At first I thought “why would I pay $30-100 per month to host my WordPress site(s) when I could get unlimited domains at Dreamhost for $9 per month?”
So really – I only tried WP Engine out because I got a free developer’s account. They were just starting out and wanted to get in good with a few influencers (a smart move on their part).
The other BIG reason I even gave them a try was that I saw a TechCrunch article which said that the founders of WordPress themselves invested $1.2M into the company. To me this was a big deal – it really legitimized that this was a company that was well-vetted and had a strong future ahead of it.
So What Makes WP Engine So Special Anyway?
Since it was free to try, I decided to host a single site and see what the experience was like. I setup a domain with them that I had bought (they set me up with a subdomain and I needed to make sure it pointed correctly so I opened up a support ticket and got a response back and fixed within the hour).
Some of their strong points are – the speed and quality of their support. They claim to have more WordPress-specific engineers per thousand users than any other managed host in the world. These guys really know what they’re doing and are often known to go out of their way to make sure your site works.
So I installed a theme, modified it, and was off to the races. I posted a number of articles, made a bunch more theme modifications, and the entire time, the more and more I worked with it, I was slowly getting sucked into WP Engine’s speed and everything-works-as-you-would-want-it-to-ness.
Speed Speed Speed
Ok, I’ll admit it now. I got really spoiled by WP Engine’s speed. I recently went to edit some posts on my girlfriend’s site (which is hosted at Dreamhost) and I got really annoyed by how long it took pages to load when I was moving around the dashboard. The backend at WP Engine is as fast as the frontend. And the frontend is where it really shines.
It’s so stupid fast it has spoiled me. It’s like getting used to having an upgraded SSD hard drive, & then downgrading back to magnetic hard drive – it SUCKS.
How do they achieve this? They use a baked-in CDN that caches everything and serves files from a user’s nearest location. I have a CDN set up for my girlfriend’s site (but that took me many many many hours to setup and at one point I even needed to get Willie Jackson‘s help to make sure I got all the settings right – there’s a ton of them.) WP Engine does all this for you, automatically, continuously, and behind the scenes.
They also have a bunch of WordPress / optimization techs working to make sure that all the files, database queries, etc. are as being served as efficiently as possible. As a matter of fact they don’t even allow some plugins to run on their system – ones that would make your WordPress db queries / file serving really inefficient (like most related posts plugins, all of which bloat the hell out of most WP themes/setups/database queries).
Built for Spikes
Even before I tested out WP Engine I had recommended it to a friend who was going crazy over her existing host. She had just changed her theme and her site kept crashing – and this was right during a popular awards show (she runs a very high traffic fashion site). Fed up, she asked for my recommendation and I told her to check out WP Engine.
In about a week she had everything switched out and her site was humming even during the Grammies (when her site was getting pummeled with traffic & requests). I checked in with her a month later and she was VERY happy with how her site was running.
The Cost of Security & Backups
Late last year I was hit with a pharma hack on one of my sites. This is a really major pain-in-the-ass hack. It takes a lot of work / knowledge to know how to remove. In the end I ended up paying $289 to get Sucuri security to go in and remove it for me & to keep monitoring it for further attacks.
I’m am also currently paying $15/mo for WordPress Vault to backup the site and its database. It works well, but it’s yet another cost – one that you end up avoiding with WP Engine since that’s all already and automatically included.
Yep – so all that security and backups – also humming along automatically. They even apparently have a one-click backup (which I haven’t had to use so I can’t vouch for it specifically).
I Heart WPE
I gotta say I really dig with WP Engine.
They got me in with a free account, and I gotta say it worked. A few months ago I moved my girlfriend’s site over. She runs a ton of traffic so I am now paying a LOT more than I used to ($249/mo.) – but at the end of the day it’s worth it. These were my previous costs…
Dreamhost $9/m0 + MaxCDN service ~$50/mo + Vaultpress $15/mo + Sucuri Security $289/year + hours and hours of my time keeping everything running, secure, backed up
… and now I pay many times more than that - but honestly – time is worth more than that – and I’d rather be paying the guys who know what they’re doing so I can spend my time running my sites and writing blog posts.
(If you click the link above I get a commission, so if you do – thanks. No worries either way).
When I moved the site over I had a few hiccups along the way (had to ask them to unzip an uploads file on the server twice). After a few back and forths they got it done. While I could have done these things myself and faster on my own Hostgator VPS, I’d rather have the pros at WP Engine handle all the database optimization and security from now on – so to me that’s worth the price of not having complete control.