WP Engine Review – A Managed WordPress Hosting Solution

WP Engine is a popular managed WordPress hosting service that boasts over 50,000 customers across 120 countries in the world. I have spoken about WP Engine a lot over the last month; most recently in my chat with David Vogelpohl of WP Engine.

A managed WordPress hosting solution such as WP Engine offers many things that other hosting companies do not offer such as an integrated content delivery network to help improve performance.

Managed WordPress hosting companies set up their entire platform specifically for WordPress. This is beneficial from a performance point of view and from a security point of view.

WP Engine
WP Engine focuses exclusively on hosting WordPress websites.

To help me understand WP Engine better, the company kindly set me up with a test account so that I can show you all what WP Engine customers enjoy.

I hope you find the review useful.

** Please read my note about my hosting reviews to get an understanding of what my hosting reviews cover and what they do not.

Why Use a Managed WordPress Hosting Company?

Before I delve into what WP Engine offers, it is important to discuss what a managed hosting service such as WP Engine offers.

The term “Managed” can be a little misleading as most hosting companies sell a managed service. The vast majority of shared hosting and VPS hosting packages on sale are managed. This means the company will set everything up for you, handle the installation and configuration of scripts, help transfer your websites to their servers, and provide you with active support. It is normally only with dedicated servers that you need to decide between purchasing a managed service or an unmanaged service (with an unmanaged service, all you are paying for is the server itself).

Within the WordPress world the term “Managed Hosting” has come to mean something else. It means that the hosting company takes care of many tasks and responsibilities that regular hosting companies expect website owners to handle themselves.

Working exclusively with one platform allows managed WordPress hosting companies to tweak everything to suit one particular environment. This is something that hosting companies cannot do with shared hosting and VPS plans because they need to ensure they support all available platforms.

Managed WordPress hosting companies also promise improved support for WordPress users. If you are a new WordPress user, this is something that will certainly appeal to you, but it is important to realise that all of the additional help and attention that managed WordPress hosting companies give you comes at a price.

Managed WordPress hosting solutions can cost around five times more than regular hosting plans; though this price does normally include additional services such as daily external backups and an integrated content delivery network.

If a managed WordPress hosting company is doing its job correctly, they will greatly reduce the time you need to handle technical issues and therefore free up a lot of your time to focus on your business.

The question that every website owner needs to ask is whether this premium is worth it.

If you prefer to manage things on your own and are not short on time, a managed WordPress hosting service is probably not for you as many hosting options you will be used to using are not available.

Beginners would benefit from the technical support being offered by a company such as WP Engine, but if you cannot afford the service, do not use them. Stick to a cheaper hosting solution until you can afford to increase your hosting budget.

If you are extremely busy and do not want to spend your time debugging and managing technical problems and other website issues, you may want to consider using a managed WordPress hosting service. The additional premium you pay for using their services is small when compared to the time it can save you.

Regular hosting companies have stepped up their game and started offering better support for WordPress users, though there are still many benefits to using a managed WordPress hosting service instead so be sure to check out all of the features on offer and examine how they will help you and your business.

Why Use WP Engine?

WP Engine has a lot of great features that website owners will love.

One of the most beloved features is website staging.

Website staging allows you to easily create a copy of your website. You can then make changes to your website and apply them to your website once you are ready. Staging will reduce the odds of your website going offline because of an installation error, plugin error, or theme error.

I currently test all my modifications on a test website I have created. This helps me test plugins before they are active on this blog and reduces the chances of something going wrong; however the process is time-consuming as I need to manually re-apply all changes I made to my test website on this website. If I had website staging I would be able to make major changes to this website quicker and safer.

WP Engine Staging
Website staging is one of the best features of the WP Engine hosting service.

Another cool feature is transferable installations. If you design websites you can setup a website and then transfer it automatically to the client. This saves you from having to install everything again on a live website.

WP Engine have their own custom content delivery network integrated into their service that vastly improves the performance of all websites. It costs $19.99 per month if you host using their personal hosting plan but is included with all other plans.

You will find a page performance tool in the WP Engine user interface too. It’s not as informative as website speed test services such as GTmetrix, but it is still good to see it included.

Page Performance
You can check website performance directly through the customer user area.

WP Engine back up all websites on a daily basis and store up to sixty days of backups. You can download previous backups at any time and perform one-click restores in seconds.

The support team can also provide technical users with WCPLI access if required.

One thing that WP Engine is known for is their disallowed plugin list. This is a comprehensive list of WordPress plugins that you are not allowed to use if you host with WP Engine. It has proved to be a point of contention for many WordPress users as they were not happy with not using their favourite plugins.

The company do not ban plugins just to be difficult. Most plugins on the ban list are not allowed because they are resource hogs, because they conflict with the WP Engine hosting platform, or because they present a security risk.

The disallowed plugin information page explains why certain plugins are banned. For example, Broken Link Checker is not allowed due to an overwhelming amount of HTTP requests and many related posts plugins are forbidden because they put a lot of stress on the database.

To their credit, WP Engine do their best to work with WordPress plugin developers and third-party services to ensure they do play nice with WP Engine. They have worked closely with WP Rocket, for example, to ensure that the plugin always works correctly with their platform. To ensure websites are secure, WP Engine also holds back the roll out of the latest version of certain plugins to ensure that it is compatible and will not cause errors.

The way that WordPress plugins are handled when hosted with WP Engine will frustrate many people, however others believe it is a small price to pay to ensure that their website is secure and runs efficiently.

The WP Engine User Portal

One of my friends used to host with WP Engine when it first launched so I was able to test it a few years ago. I was not particularly impressed with the setup when I first encountered it. Thankfully, the WP Engine user portal has since been drastically improved.

The main dashboard lists all of your websites. For each website you can see the total visits, bandwidth, and storage being used. News and system statuses are also displayed on this page.

WP Engine Dashboard
The WP Engine dashboard.

The installs area gives you full control over every website you have hosted with WP Engine. The left-hand side of the page displays links to twelve settings areas: Overview, Domains, CDN, Redirect Rules, Backup Points, Access Logs, Error Logs, Git Push, SSL, Advanced, Utilities, Site Migration, phpMyAdmin, and WordPress Admin. This whole menu is available from the main WP Engine dashboard via the arrow symbol displayed next to each installation.

Everything is handled in this area. This is where you manage your content delivery network, your backups, caching options, and more.

WP Engine Installs
You have less control than a typical cPanel dashboard, but many will love the simplicity of the WP Engine user portal.

I found the user portal easy to understand and quick to navigate. There are less options on offer than a hosting package with cPanel installed, but most users do not use the additional options cPanel has anyway so this will be a mute point for many users.

Support

One of the things I really liked about the user portal was how easy it was to access support. At the top of every page is a link for live chat. Clicking on that automatically loads up a chat box in your browser for you to get help.

A large archive of informative tutorials and guides can be found in the support area. You should find this reference useful as it covers dozens of WordPress and website hosting related topics.

WP Engine Support
WP Engine provides multiple ways of getting support.

Except from personal plan customers, all WP Engine customers also get access to 24/7 phone support.

WP Engine Plans

The three popular plans available at WP Engine are personal, professional, and business. Website migration is free for all customers and the three cheapest plans come with a sixty day money back guarantee.

Personal, professional, and business plans, are all hosted in a shared hosting environment. That means your websites will be hosted on the same server as other customers. Plans are determined by the traffic customers receive on a monthly basis.

For $29 per month, the personal plan offers 10GB of storage up to 25,000 monthly visitors for one website. If you choose this plan, the WP Engine content delivery network feature will cost an additional $19.95 per month.

The professional plan retails at $99 per month. It increases storage to 20GB, traffic to 100,000 monthly visitors, and installations to ten. Their content delivery network is included with the plan and you also get support for a third-party SSL, 24/7 phone support, and WordPress multisite.

Moving up to the business plan will cost you $249 per month. This increases storage to 30GB, traffic to 400,000 monthly visitors, and installations to twenty-five. It also adds the ability to serve content to visitors based on their geographical position.

WP Engine Plans
WP Engine have five plans available to customers.

If you have a high traffic website, you may want to consider the premium and enterprise plans. These are suitable for those who generate millions of visitors per month. You need to call WP Engine directly for one of these plans as they customise each plan for customers.

Whatever plan you choose, be sure to familiarise yourself with WP Engine’s overage pricing. They charge $1 per 1,000 visitors over your plan’s limit. This could prove expensive if a page on your website got a surge of traffic from a website such as Reddit.

I realise that when hosting companies charge on a traffic basis they need to charge for any traffic over the allowed limit of traffic.

If a customer was constantly going over their limit, I believe it is fair for them to be asked to upgrade to a higher plan or their account would be closed. However, to stop customers getting an expensive overage bill, I would like to see some concessions made for customers who received an unexpected amount of traffic from a news website or social media service. For example, perhaps the rate of $1 per 1,000 visitors could be reduced if it is clear that the additional traffic all came from one particular source.

Final Thoughts

There are many pros and cons of using a managed WordPress hosting service and many of those pros and cons depend on the customer themselves.

You need to review your technical experience with managing websites, the time you can devote to managing your websites, and the budget you can set aside for hosting every month.

I have did my best to explain what WP Engine offers, however it is up to you to continue your research of WP Engine and read more reviews, look at feedback from existing customers, and speak to the company directly about what you need from their service. This will help you make an informed decision.

I hope you have enjoyed this look at the managed WordPress hosting service WP Engine.

If you have any questions regarding their service, please leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer them.

Thanks,
Kevin