WP Engine Review: Super Duper Fast and Secure Managed WordPress Web Hosting

WP Engine Review: Super Duper Fast and Secure Managed WordPress Web Hosting

WP Engine

The Good

  • Super duper fast! Testing showed our test site was down for just 1 minute over the past 30 days.
  • All accounts comes with a staging area were you can test new plugins and themes.
  • Hacks are fixed for free.
  • One-click backup and restore saves you a lot of headaches.

The Bad

  • Hosting plans with WP Engine are expensive compared to other shared hosts. Expect your wallet to feel a little lighter each month.
  • The support team closes tickets too soon.

Our Verdict

  • price:
  • usability:
  • service:
  • speed:
  • features:
  • Overall:

WPMU DEV Rating

The Bottom Line

It's no surprise WP Engine has dominated the managed WordPress hosting space. The company promises speed, security and capability – and delivers.

While their services don't come cheap, you have to weigh up how much time you spend managing your websites compared to how much money you are willing to spend to reclaim that time. Despite my dissatisfaction with support, WP Engine is a fantastic hosting option for WordPress sites.

WP Engine: A Bit of History

WP Engine team
WP Engine has been around since 2010 offering secure, speedy web hosting.

Headquarters: Texas, United States

Employees: 65

Founded in July 2010, WP Engine provides enterprise-level hosting and has quickly built a reputation as a solid and reliable managed WordPress host with a focus on speed, security and capability.

In November 2011, WP Engine raised $1.2 million in funding led by Silverton Partners, along with angels Eric Ries, Loic Le Meur, Dharmesh Shah, Jeremy Benken, Bill Boebel, Rob Walling. Automattic also made a strategic investment in WP Engine.

In turn, WP Engine was Automattic’s launch partner when it announced its VIP Support for Web Hosts program.

Last weekend, WP Engine entered the WordPress news space with its own offering, Torque Magazine, and surprised punters with the revelation it had bought out WP Daily.

Torque logo.
WP Engine has launched its own news site, Torque.

Editor Michelle Oznowicz announced the online magazine in a Letter From the Editor on July 26. She said her vision for Torque included a “fierce sense of editorial independence.”

“We are published by WP Engine, but I was brought on from the outside in order to spearhead and manage an autonomous publication, not to promote a brand,” Oznowicz wrote.

“Torque will not shy away from controversy. Instead, when we feature biased or opinionated pieces, we will always try to represent both sides of an issue.”

Cost

WP Engine offers four Managed WordPress hosting plans:

  • Personal – $29 a month – 1 WordPress install, 25,000 visits a month, unlimited data transfer, 10 GB local storage
  • Professional – $99 a month – 10 WordPress install, 100,000 visits a month, unlimited data transfer, 20 GB local storage
  • Business – $249 a month – 25 WordPress install, 400,000 visits a month, unlimited data transfer, 30 GB local storage
  • Premium – Customized plan with unlimited WordPress installs and unlimited millions of visits a month

Each plan comes with:

  • Unlimited Data Transfer
  • Stage & Deploy with Git
  • Managed Upgrades
  • Daily Backups
  • One-Click Restore-Points
  • Enterprise Architecture
  • No Caching Plugins!
  • International Data Centers
  • Top-Shelf Hardware
  • Firewall
  • Malware Scanning
  • “Surprising” Support
  • Money-Back Guarantee
  • No Lock-In
WP Engine 60-day money back guarantee
If you’re not satisfied with WP Engine’s services you can take advantage of the company’s 60-day money back guarantee.

CDN comes with the Professional, Business and Premium plans but is $19.95 a month with the Personal plan.

The Professional, Business and Premium plans also come with SSL support and WordPress Multisite.

Dedicated IPs come with the Business and Premium plans but is $5 a month with the Professional plan and it’s unavailable with the Personal plan.

Telephone support is available with the Business and Premium plans.

The Premium plan also includes unlimited installations and dedicated hardware.

For this review, I signed up for a Personal plan.

Features

WP Engine offers some pretty tasty features:

  • WordPress-specific support
  • Hacks fixed for free
  • One-click backup and restore
  • Evercache technology
  • Site migration (for a fee)
  • Plans that are risk-free for 60 days
  • Staging area
  • WordPress deployment via GIT
  • Bundled CDN
  • You choice of data centre – Newark in the US, London in Europe or Tokyo in Asia
  • Curated plugins and themes

WP Engine takes security seriously, so much so the host has even put money on its ability to secure your website. No site is 100 per cent hack-proof, but if your WP Engine site is hacked they will cover the cost of cleaning up the mess. It’s the only web host I’ve come across with this kind of security guarantee and would no doubt give a lot of customers peace of mind.

WP Engine hacking guarantee
WP Engine promises to protect your site and even offers to un-hack your site for free.

Daily backups and one-click backup and restore are another couple of fantastic features that ensure if you screw up your website you can go back in time and fix it. Along with caching facilities, you don’t have to worry about installing third-party plugins because WP Engine looks after all of that for you.

Another fantastic feature is the staging area. Whenever you need to update a plugin or change your theme you can test it out in the staging area before it goes live on your site. It’s a place where you can break things without worrying about affecting your live site.

WP Engine is also the only hosting company I’ve reviewed that offers CDN as part of its base service. It’s a feature other hosts often bundle with plans for large site and if you want it for a smaller site you need to fork out extra cash. It’s definitely a feature that set WP Engine apart from other web host.

The only issue I have with WP Engine is that it doesn’t offer email hosting. The company uses the Google Apps service for its own email and recommends its customers do the same. The company also suggests Zoho Mail as a competitive alternative.

The host also has a list of disallowed plugins that are banned because they “collide” with the solutions WP Engine has put into place as part of its services.

The list includes caching plugins such as WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache and backup plugins including WP DB Backup and WP DB Manager. While most users would be disappointed and even sceptical about giving up plugins they have used for many years to manage their site, there’s a certain trust you have to place in the functionality of WP Engine’s services. And in the long run, it means there’s another set of plugins you don’t have to worry about keeping an eye on.

The high cost of WP Engine services also takes into account potential spikes in traffic to your site. The company ensures users have enough resources to handle heavy traffic whereas if you were with another shared host you would overload your server and your site would go down.

Usability

WP Engine account page

The first time I logged in to my WP Engine account I had to hunt around for the login page and eventually found it buried at the bottom of the homepage.

Since signing up for a WP Engine account, the company has updated its account page. It’s heaps cleaner and easier to use compared to the old account page and includes information on the average number of visits to your site and bandwidth use as well as the host’s system status, links to the WP Engine blog and the company’s latest tweets.

The account page allows you to check the settings for your domain, CDN, redirect rules, backup points, error logs and phpMyAdmin.

It’s a simple user portal that provides only very basic settings because WP Engine takes care of the rest.

When you sign up for an account you get a fresh WordPress install with Akismet pre-installed. Other than that, you get an SFTP account. You don’t get direct access to phpMyAdmin but you can use phpMyAdmin on your account page.

WP Engine hassle-free WordPress hosting
There are whingers out there who complain about WP Engine managing their site. If you don’t want managed hosting then don’t sign up for managed hosting.

I’ve read complaints on some blogs and review sites about WP Engine making changes to their users’ accounts without informing them. Did those users miss the part where WP Engine is a MANAGED host? If you want full control over your hosting, it’s best to avoid WP Engine and any other managed host for that matter. And when WP Engine makes changes to your account, don’t complain because you gave them permission to make changes the minute you signed up for an account.

Customer Service

WP Engine provides a comprehensive Support Garage filled with information tackling every aspect of their hosting services. There is also a support area where you can submit a request, but you have to login in with a username and password different to your account details.

WP Engine doesn’t offer live chat and phone support is only available on the Business and Premium plans.

It wasn’t long before I had to contact Support for help. The day after I signed up for a Personal account I received an email about issues with my credit card. I was sent a follow up email the next day and before I had a chance to respond or update my credit card details the ticket was closed after just 24 hours.

WP Engine Zendesk
You need to login to the Zendesk for WP Engine support tickets.

I went ahead and updated my credit card details but there wasn’t any kind of confirmation on the next page after I clicked “Okay” or even an email notification. So all I could do was hope for the best.

Well, my updated billing details didn’t work and I found out the hard way, or should I say our CEO James Farmer found out the hard way. I had used a company credit card and WP Engine had attempted to debit the card six times before the bank cancelled the card. James had attempted to use the credit card in Los Angeles after a long-haul flight (flying to LA from Melbourne takes a whole day!) and was left short of cash…

So I emailed WP Engine to find out why they were messing around with my billing. A support member said the billing address didn’t match the address on the test site’s account. I had used the same card to sign up for other web hosts without any problems so I was frustrated that the card wasn’t working due to whatever security measures WP Engine has in place for its transactions. I ended up having to use another card.

I received a follow up ticket checking on my account the next day, but before I had a chance to respond the ticket was automatically closed. I found this incredibly frustrating, particularly as I’m based in another timezone. It would be great if WP Engine could extend the timeframe for its tickets.

Speed

I monitored the test site using Pingdom and I have to say, WP Engine’s uptime and response times were almost faultless.

Over the lifetime of the account, the site was up 99.99 per cent of the time, with downtime of just 8 minutes five times. Impressive. In the past seven days, the site experienced uptime of 100 per cent. And in the past 30 days:

WP Engine uptime

WP Engine’s uptime put other web hosts I tested to shame.

Response times were pretty good, but by no means the best.

Over the lifetime of the account the overall average was 747 milliseconds. The fastest average was 1093 milliseconds and the slowest average was 627 milliseconds. During the past seven days, the fastest average was 684 milliseconds and the slowest average was 1188 milliseconds. The overall average was 717 milliseconds. Over the past 30 days:

WP Engine response times

Disclaimer: In putting together this review, we bought our WP Engine review account just like any other customer – via the sign-up link on the homepage. We didn’t let WP Engine in on the fact we were reviewing their services to avoid any special treatment.

Have you used WP Engine? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.

To read the reviews in this series:
To read the reviews in this series:

Image credits: José Goulão.