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WPEngine Review – Trying Out WPEngine WordPress Hosting (2019)

February 17th

Andy

Offsprout is the only WordPress website builder for freelancers and agencies.

WP Engine is a premium hosting service that exclusively provides managed WordPress hosting.

If you’re new to the world of hosting and/or running an agency, you may want to start with our article on the best hosting for client websites and why you should host and chase that with our post on WordPress maintenance plans.

This is a long review so if you want the TLDR version:

We use WPEngine and we’re happy with them. They have a good combination of features, customer service, and price. Here’s a link to their pricing page. If you follow that link and choose a plan, they’ll automatically apply a 20% discount.


While plenty of companies out there offer website hosting, from GoDaddy to Bluehost and HostGator (among many others), WP Engine focuses on the pretty-big niche of WordPress-powered websites.

But, what separates WP Engine from the other WordPress hosting services out there?

This post is a comprehensive WP Engine review, breaking down the features, support, cost, and other things you’ll want to know before choosing where to host your websites.

You might be wondering, “who are you to be reviewing different website hosting services?” Here at Offsprout, we’ve been using WP Engine for several years now and have used many other providers in the past.

Having built and hosted hundreds of websites, we’ve encountered the best and the worst of hosting platforms.

We’ve seen high-traffic websites run smoothly. We’ve also seen low-traffic sites crash unexplainably.

After all the effort that goes into building amazing websites for clients, choosing the right hosting provider should not be a tough decision.

So, with that, here is our WP Engine review.

What is WP Engine?

WP Engine is one of the oldest, and definitely, the biggest managed WordPress-specific hosting service.

Managed hosting means you do not have to be your own system administrator.

With managed hosting, you’re not just paying for server space, but the service of helping you keep your site up and performing well.

If you ever have issues with your website, WP Engine’s team is there to provide help.

If you are mulling over whether to get unmanaged (aka “vanilla hosting”) or managed hosting, our strong recommendation is to go with managed hosting.

It may be slightly more expensive, but it is worth the time and cost-savings. Why? Because with managed hosting, you don’t need to be a system admin, debugging server issues yourself.

We’ve been in that position before and it was a terrible experience. Server issues can take up a lot of time that could be better spent working on client projects. Bottom line: Managed hosting is 100% the way to go.

But not only is managed hosting the way to go, but you also need a managed hosting provider who understands WordPress well.

WordPress is a big ecosystem. There are so many themes and plugins out there for this open-source CMS. When there are issues (and things always come up), it benefits having people you can call to provide knowledgeable support and help you through any issues.

I won’t name names, but we’ve encountered issues with the quality of support provided by some of the other hosting providers. 24/7 support, for example, is worthless, if you cannot get knowledgeable support.

WP Engine stands out for its WordPress knowledge in particular.

Once you sign up, WPEngine will set up your WordPress installs, help you easily update it, make backups, caching.

If you have any support issues, their team can help. That’s what they’re there for, and that’s part of the service you pay for with their managed hosting. You get a WordPress expert on-call to help you with your website’s technical issues.

So, all that aside, what about WP Engine’s features?

WP Engine Features

WP Engine, like any other website hosting service, serves as the designated virtual parking spot for your souped-up website.

They keep your website online. They also help you with any issues you’re having with your sites and hosting. Whether you have a site that is under attack by hackers or seems like it is running slow, WP Engine’s team can help.

WP Engine offers different service and price tiers, ranging from hosting of a single WordPress install to as many as you need.

With WP Engine, they provide 24/7 chat support on all tiers, with 24/7 phone support on higher tiers.

WPEngine free SSL certificate

They also offer automated, free SSL certificates. This is a nice add-on, as SSL certificates could be rather expensive and cumbersome to install.

You get access to dev, staging, and production environments.

And, you have access to their global CDN for faster loading.

Overall, it’s basically everything you would need to keep your site online and running.

Related: The Best Tools to Manage Your Web Design Agency

WP Engine Support

WPEngine Support website

When it comes down to features, I want to start by focusing on support.

WP Engine’s service distinguishes itself from others based on its performance and support.

Their knowledgeable support team is a big selling point – so how does their support team actually stack up?

Here’s the thing… there are a lot of WP Engine reviews out there. Everyone’s experience is different. One bad experience with a support rep can turn people off completely from the service.

Over the last several years with WP Engine, we’ve called on their support team many times.

Sometimes, our support has been amazing. We’ve gotten quick answers to questions and responses to our requests.

Other times, we’ve dealt with long waits or response times.

One time, we had a major service issue caused by a WP Engine team member regarding an upgrade. This was a big problem, and very frustrating for us.

Overall though, we’ve been satisfied with the WP Engine team and their knowledge. It’s clear, especially compared to other hosting providers, that their first-response support techs know the ins and outs of WordPress.

It should be noted that at the entry-level tier – Startup – you do not have access to 24/7 phone support, but you do get 24/7 chat support.

WP Engine Performance

WPEngine Speed Test

Site speed is not typically an issue for a small, simple WordPress site. For that, you could go with a very inexpensive hosting provider, and not encounter many issues when it comes to your websites loading.

But, for sites that have many plugins, unique elements, multi-sites, lots of images and content, speed becomes an issue.

And it’s not always just fixable by more bandwidth or more powerful servers. With complex sites, caching is a big consideration for site speed.

WP Engine has their own custom-built server caching setup built for WordPress.

Beyond that, WP Engine also gives you access to their CDN to further improve your load times.

But, what does that mean though in practical terms?

WP Engine Speed Test

So, you probably want to know – how fast do sites load in WPEngine?

There are a lot of reviews about WPEngine that merely tout WPEngine’s sales pitch that “WPEngine is fast because it is optimized for WordPress.”

Sure, that may very well be. But do sites load quickly?

We ran a few Pingdom and Google Lighthouse tests on different sites, ours included. 

The sites we chose were completely at random. We used Builtwith to find examples of sites hosted by WPEngine and chose a sample of them.

Google Lighthouse speed test for WPEngine hosted website desktop version
Google Lighthouse speed test for WPEngine hosted website mobile version

With the Google Lighthouse tests for WPEngine sites, the sites always performed well on desktop, but not on mobile.

Mobile was atrocious. Though, to be fair, every site we tested performed much better on desktop than mobile.

Offsprout Pingdom Speed Test

In Pingdom, Offsprout and most of the other WPEngine sites we tested got performance grades in the high 70s (out of 100) range. OK but not stellar.

Obviously, we were hoping for something much higher given how we’ve only heard amazing things about site speed from the community.

How does that compare to other hosts though?

So, after doing these tests, we also ran some tests with Google Lighthouse and Pingdom on other popular websites using other hosting services (so we could have a benchmark). I know it’s not a true apples-to-apples comparison since every site is different, but we wanted to get a feel for it and see if we were way off.

Ultimately, many of the other websites we tested were in a similar range. None of the sites we tested, none of them, performed well on mobile on Google Lighthouse. And in the Pingdom tests, the average for the sites we tested was also in the 70s, about a C rating.

We also did some research into speed tests that others have done, comparing WPEngine vs. other hosts, and WPEngine has performed very well.

WP Engine Stability and Uptime

Have you ever been woken up by a panicked call on your cell phone at Christmas time?

Then, you pick up the phone, still half-asleep, and hear someone on the line freaking out that their website is down?

You wonder why Santa is furious at you… before you come to your senses that this isn’t Santa.

Turns out, this is a top client and their site is down!

Have you ever had that happen to you?

No?

Well, if you ever did, you will greatly value having a website host that can tout its stability.

Website uptime, while important for many clients, is mission-critical for others.

For e-commerce businesses especially, downtime is unforgivable.

Downtime for a company’s website means lost revenue for them.

And that means they end up furious at you, whether the downtime is in your control or not.

So, uptime is very important.

But, it’s hard to gauge. Every website hosting service seems to say they have 99.99999% uptime.

What is an actual user’s experience like?

In the time we’ve used WP Engine, about 5 years now, we have had a few downtime instances. One was back in December 2016 when there was a coordinated Distributed Denial of Service (ddos) attack and parts of Linode and Amazon AWS S3 (both upstream hosts) went down, taking down a lot of the Internet with it.

The incredibly rare incident notwithstanding, overall, our service has been very reliable.

WP Engine uptime has been more reliable than any previously managed hosting provider we have used.

Having used a few different website hosts in the past, we’ve seen all kinds of outages for various reasons. The thing is, the reasons for website downtime aren’t important to your clients if they are depending on their websites being up and running all the time.

WP Engine guarantees 99.99% uptime of its platform.

WP Engine’s reliability makes it easier to sleep at night if you are hosting sites for your clients, since you will not have to worry as much about being away from a computer or Internet-connected device due to random acts of sites going down.

WP Engine Security

Are hackers going to pwn your site if you get WP Engine?

Probably not. At least, not on the server level.

First, with WP Engine, you get free SSL certificates. This keeps data sent to your site private. SSL is a must when doing e-commerce, for example, to ensure that any transmitted credit card info is secured.  

WP Engine runs regular automated backups. So, if your sites crash, you have a backup that you can use to restore your site quickly.

Additionally, they do regular security audits of their platform and scan for plugins that they feel do not comport with security best practices.

One interesting thing is that WPEngine guarantees that if your site is ever hacked, they will fix it for free.

Since having WP Engine, none of our sites on the platform have been hit by malware, viruses, or taken down.

WP Engine Pricing

So what does all of this actually cost? WP Engine has different pricing tiers, ranging from a single install and limited visits/bandwidth to multiple sites with high storage, visits, and bandwidth.

Pricing between tiers is based on a few different elements.

Visits / Month – This is exactly what it sounds like. WP Engine monitors your website traffic, and as part of your tier, allocates you a certain amount of web traffic. Any traffic over that limit, and you pay an overage. If you are in the right tier, overages should never be a concern.

Local Storage – This is also pretty self-explanatory. This is all about the size of your WordPress install. More content, themes, uploads, etc., means more storage usage.

Bandwidth / Month – This is all about how much data your visitors are using when they download images or watch videos hosted on your hosting.

Sites Included – At the lowest tier, you get one website install. At higher tiers, you can have multiple installs and multi-site installs.

The tiers are Startup, Growth, Scale. Here is the current breakdown:

WPEngine pricing table

As you can see, the Startup tier only allows for one install and has pretty low ceilings on visits/month. For any sites with high traffic, this tier is not going to be a good fit.

The Growth tier allocates more traffic. From the Growth tier onward, you also get access to 24/7 phone support.

The higher tiers – Growth, Scale, and Custom – offer more in terms of visits, storage, bandwidth, and included sites.

Feature-wise, both Growth, and Scale are identical to each other than the visits, storage, bandwidth, and included sites.

The Custom tier has a bunch of additional options included like multisite, a launch readiness assessment, and GeoTarget.

Advantages of WP Engine WordPress Hosting

WP Engine has a few things going for it that make it stand out from other hosting services out there.

The biggest advantage of WP Engine as a service is their WordPress knowledge and expertise. Their support team knows WordPress front-to-back and can help with any issues you encounter. It’s like having a WordPress expert on staff.

If I could summarize the WP Engine advantage, it’s this – WP Engine makes it so you don’t have to worry about your hosting or installs. They take that all off your plate.

That’s what you get with their managed WordPress hosting.

With WP Engine, their sites perform extremely well and have reliable uptime.

Site security is also excellent.

Last, one really nice advantage is that WP Engine offers a 60-day money-back guarantee, so in the event you try it out and aren’t satisfied, you can go elsewhere.

Related: The Best WordPress Plugins for Web Design Agencies

Disadvantages of WP Engine WordPress Hosting

WP Engine is not perfect. No hosting service is.

First, the biggest concern that people have – WP Engine is not the cheapest service out there. It’s rather expensive compared to others in the website hosting landscape.

If you are setting up hosting for a client site and you have clients with low budgets or not much need for performance, WP Engine might not be the right solution for them.

Beyond that, one disadvantage that I’ve heard others complain about is domain name registration.

They simply don’t do it. For that, you’ll need to use another domain registrar.

Conclusion

I hope this WP Engine review helps provide an experienced viewpoint as you consider which hosting provider to go choose.

WP Engine is not right for everyone. For some, its features might be more than you need and don’t justify the cost. Especially if an optimally running website is not mission-critical and you don’t get a ton of traffic.

Since there are a lot of website hosting services out there, many of them treat hosting as a commodity.

They frame it as, “Pay us $X and we will host 1 website,” and hope you don’t care too much about the kind of hosting and support you get.

Because of this approach, they also can treat customer service like an expense that just eats at their profits, so they want to provide as little support as they possibly can.

WP Engine charges a bit more and provides a better overall experience. In paying a premium with WP Engine, you get WordPress-specific expertise.

Have you ever used WP Engine? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below.

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