WP Engine Review

WP Engine Review
Plan in review: Startup
Reviewed by:
Rating:
Review Last Updated: April 10, 2018
Summary
WP Engine is a very special web host company that focuses only on one niche: WordPress Hosting. Its entire hosting system runs literally on a WordPress platform. My new study shows that WP Engine is back to the peak of its game, read on to learn more.

I first learned about WP Engine long time ago.

Back when the company first started in 2010, I did an online interview with its cofounder Jason Cohen (you can read it here).

Not many have heard about the name “WP Engine” back then, but the company was growing exponentially. Many well known bloggers and businesses (including HTC, FourSquare, Balsamiq, Sound Cloud) were switching over.

A year after the interview, I got a free account and moved WHSR over. The migration process was very smooth and my site load time was halved instantly. Needless to say – I was very happy and stayed for more than 2 years.

Shortly after Google Penguin (which WHSR took a big hit), I decided to change and started rebuilding everything from ground zero. The idea was to grow WHSR into a web service provider, build a community around ourselves, and rely less on Google traffic. That was the time when WHSR Uptime Monitor was made and we switched back to conventional VPS hosting environment.

The year was 2013.

Today’s WP Engine

Over time, WP Engine has grown into an extremely popular WordPress hostinghost. Many things have changed since WHSR shifted out. Various new features were added as technology advances, the company is funded by a large group of investors including Automattic (the folks behind WordPress.com), and many bloggers and WP experts regard them as one of the best managed WordPress hosting (there were also some who go against them, more about that later).

Is WP Engine as good as the words from streets? Let’s find out.

About WP Engine

  • Headquarter: Austin, Texas
  • Established: 2010
  • Services: Managed WordPress hosting

(Quick Link) Review WP Engine Hosting in:

 

WP Engine Platform Performance

 

Our Experience & Thoughts:

Hosting uptime above 99.99%

Time-to-first-byte (TTFB) below 250ms

Rated A+ at Bitcatcha Speed Test

 

Server location only in United States

WP Engine Platform Uptime (Feb 2018): 100%

Test site at WP Engine has not gone down for the last 1038 hours.

Older Server Uptime Records

* Click to enlarge image.

Jun 2017: 100%

Feb 2016: 99.97%

wpengine feb 2016 uptime

 

Nov 2015: 100%

WP Engine Hosting uptime scores (Nov 2015)

Sep 2015: 100%

wpengine sept uptime - site has not down for 1757 hours

Sep 2014: 99.99%

wpengine hosting

Personal Experience (2012 – 2013)

As I mentioned earlier, I shifted WHSR to WP Engine in 2012/13. My personal experience with WP Engine at that time was nothing but WOW.

Site’s response time improved 100% according to Pingdom right after the site migration. Note that no other fine-tuning was made when this was measured.

 

wpengine response time
Site response time halved as soon as it’s moved to WP Engine.

WP Engine Bitcatcha Speed Test Results (Mar 2018): A+

Good results in recent speed test at Bitcatcha.

 

WP Engine Bitcatcha Speed Test Results (Jun 2017): B+

Excellent speed test results test from most locations. Except for Japan, response time from other locations are well below Google’s recommended 200ms.

WP Engine Speed Test at WebpageTest.org

Time to first byte (TTFB), according to WebpageTest.org, at 224ms.

 

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WP Engine Customer Care

 

Our Experience & Thoughts:

Clear service terms and guarantees

60-day money back guarantee 

Helpful 24×7 live chat and telephone support

No lock in contract – cancel anytime 

Good billing practice – users can refund or cancel account easily

Not everyone is happy with WP Engine customer support

 

 

 

Pro-active live chat support

A WP Engine sales staff is there to greet you as soon as a user land on their website.

My recent live chat experience with WP Engine support was good. WP Engine’s live chat support is one of the best five according to my studies in 2017.

My chat record with WP Engine staff, Maurice Onayemi.

Huge knowledge base at WP Engine support section.

As WordPress is WP Engine core business, the host provides comprehensive WordPress optimization guide in their support section (which you don’t get with other non-WP managed hosts).

 

User Complaints on WP Engine Support (Mainly in 2014/2015)

WP Engine supports was top class during my stay (2012 – 2013). Every support single staff that I spoke to was a WordPress wizard. And they were so passionate with their job – that you can tell from how quick they reply your emails – their ticketing support system was like a live chat where I got almost instant responses every time.

But things obviously has changed later if you search around and you’ll noticed that here were quite some complaints on WP Engine customer support in 2014, including this lengthy review by Matthew Woodward. The complains, generally speaking, focus on two things –

  • Uninformed / inexperienced support staffs,
  • Slow responses (some even said their requests were ignored), and

WP Engine’s Response 

Mounting criticism of the company has prompted the response by WP Engine founder Jason Cohen in this blog post in May 2014 – Growth is Hard.

To address the issue, seven immediate actions were taken, including hiring new support staffs (they have increased the support team by 50% since then) and allow customers to reach out the company’s engineer directly (read quotes below).

1- Hiring

We closed our Series C financing in January and immediately put it to work in hiring in the Support Team. We’ve increase the team by 50% since then. It’s very hard to hire quickly and yet maintain our standards of both attitude (culture) and aptitude (ability). We’ve even hired additional internal recruiters to help us accelerate this process.

2- Direct-to-Engineer

Some of our customers are highly technical, so whenever they contact us, it’s with difficult, interesting problems—not ones that can be solved with a knowledge base article or a simple, obvious response. Therefore, we started creating pathways for those customers to get to engineers faster—people who can work on the mind-bending stuff. Of course we don’t have that 24/7 yet, like we do with regular support. Fortunately, those problems are usually OK to be solved during normal business hours, so overall this approach has been effective.

Updates: User feedback after Jason’s message

Recent user feedback (after Jason’s message) indicates that the quality of WP Engine customer support is coming back.

Feedback from BRet Wegner, Drive Social Now

Extremely likely, between the simple setup, automated migrations and great support when you need just a little more control, WP Engine has not failed me yet. There seems to be times when the admin side of a site seems a bit sluggish. This is usually during peak hours, but if your site is on a server with other sites that have heavy loads, you can become affected. But you can usually ask them to move your site to another server and they’ll take care of getting you to a more reliable environment. – Bret Wegner, Drive Social Now / quoted from Fit Small Business.

Feedback fromDave Warfel, WP Smack Down

Live chat wait times [with WP Engine] will depend on a few factors; mainly, time of day and if they are experiencing any server issues. I think the longest I’ve had to wait is 15 minutes. A majority of the time, I get a response in less than 5 minutes. Compared to other hosts, I’d rate this as very good (8.5/10) – Dave Warfel’s WP Engine Review.

WP Engine’s Visit Counts

Few years ago, one complaint you often hear about WP Engine is how they charge their customers. WP Engine users are charged based on visit. WP Engine entry plan, for example, allows up to 25,000 visits per month. If you blog attracts more than 25,000 visits in a month, you’ll need to pay more.

So, more visits = more CPU resources usage = higher host fees. Fair?

Nope. Because WP Engine is also charging on bots visits and has not implemented any measures to block bad bots (unlike conventional hosting, users can’t setup their robots.txt to block bad bots at WP Engine). Users were forced to pay overages due to bots visits.

WP Engine’s Response 

WP Engine removed bot visits from their billable visits calculations in October 13, 2015.

Learn how WP Engine define as a “visit” in this article.

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WP Engine Features

 

Our Experience & Thoughts:

GeoIP targeting and offsite backups

Agile developer environment – development and staging sites ready

Reseller-friendly: Transfer billing to your clients

Expensive addon features

No email hosting

No direct access to .htaccess file

 

Important to know: WP Engine is for WordPress Sites Only

Keep in mind that WP Engine is a WordPress-only hosting.

This means if your site is not WordPress base, then you can’t host your site at WP Engine.

 

Billing transfer

Developer can create a site within WP Engine and transfer the hosting account / site to their clients easily.

Self-help site migration

Does WP Engine provider site migration service? No.

However, WP Engine has developed a hassle-free automated migration plugin. All you need to do is provide some account details and the migration process (ie. searching/replacing values in database, updating link structure, and multiple sites migration, etc) can be done automatically with the plugin.

For detail instruction, read this post. To download the migration tool, here.

 

Screen shot of the WP Engine migration plugin – this is where you add your migration info into the tool.

Accessing .htaccess file at WP Engine

At WP Engine, .htaccess rules are set at user portal (see image).

You’ll need to go through their tech support to access your .htaccess file (for example, to copy and past a big chunk of .htaccess redirects).

You can manage your redirect rules at WP Engine user portal (find detail instructions here).

Expensive addons

There are a lot of great features with WP Engine but they don’t come free for Startup and Growth plan users.

Host an extra site at WP Engine Startup Plan (with no additional visit capacity), add $20/mo. GeoTarget (great feature that let you show different page to users from different location), add $15/mo. Content Performance (Google Analytics data visualized), add $25/mo.

Sending and receiving emails

WP Engine does not provide email or webmail features.

This means if you want an email address ending with your domain name (something like email@mydomain.com), you will need to host your own email accounts.

Yes, I know you can always go with Gmail as Google provides free email hosting services (as recommended by WPEngine); but not all website owners want their data to be hosted with the big G (me included!).

However, stay no fear. I have tried a few different solutions when I switched my host to WP Engine and wrote this email hosting guide.

 

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Price: Is WP Engine value for money?

 

Our Experience & Thoughts:

No hidden fees or surge in renewal fees

No lock in contract – cancel anytime 

Good billing practice – users can refund or cancel account easily

Costly for owners running multiple WP sites

Slightly expensive – Price increased in March 2018 (for existing users, September 2018)

 

WP Engine 2018 Price Changes: Before & After

WP Engine announced its new plans on February 28th, 2018. The original plans – Personal, Professional, and Business, are replaced by slightly pricier plans named StartUp, Growth, and Scale.

Screenshots of WP Engine’s emails to all affiliates.

WP Engine New Pricing (Before & After)

Features Before After
Plans Personal Professional Business Startup Growth Scale
Number of sites 1 10 25 1 5 15
Visits / month 25,000 100,000 400,000 25,000 100,000 400,000
WP Multisites Free Free +$20/mo +$20/mo +$20/mo
CDN $19/mo Free Free Free Free Free
Price (monthly-basis) $29/mo $113/mo $285/mo $35/mo $115/mo $290/mo
Price (12-mo contract) $27.55/mo $94.05/mo $236.55/mo $29.17/mo $95.83/mo $241.70/mo

 

Costly to users with multiple sites

While the speedy server and WP expert supports are good to have; WP Engine is not exactly what you need for your low traffic, less important websites.

The Startup plan allows only one installation per account and charge $20/mo per additional site. Your hosting cost would easily racks up to hundreds of dollars per month.

 

For users with multiple low traffic sites, it is much cheaper to go with a shared hosting service that normally cost less than $10 per month.

Compare price: WP Engine vs FlyWheel, Pressidium, Kinsta, and Pressable

Here’s a quick comparison on WP Engine pricing with other managed WordPress hosts (plans similar to WP Engine’s Startup).

Features WP Engine FlyWheel Kinsta Pressidium Pressable
Plans Startup Personal Starter Personal A
Number of Sites 1 1 1 3 5
Monthly Visits 25,000 25,000 20,000 30,000 60,000
Storage 10 GB 10 GB 3 GB 10 GB
CDN Free + $10/mo Free Free Free
Price (12-mo subscription) $29/mo $27.50/mo $25/mo $42/mo $20.83/mo
Visit / Order Visit Visit Visit Visit Visit

 

 

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Verdict: Is WP Engine good?

I have no doubt that WP Engine is one of the top WordPress hosting services in market.

However, I do not recommend WP Engine to everyone.

For example – if you do not intend to run your site in WordPress, then there’s no point for you to be here.

Or, if you are new and just started, I would suggest you to go with conventional shared hosting services like InMotion Hosting, A2 Hosting, or Interserver. I believe you’ll thank me for the much cheaper option.

Or, if you need to host multiple low traffic sites, which do not need so much server resources; then WP Engine is definitely an overkill.

That said, however, WP Engine can be a gem for developers or WordPress sites with heavy traffic.

If you read Devesh’s article Best Options for Managed WordPress Hosting, this is what he wrote on WP Engine –

If you want a bit of everything, go with WPEngine. This option is for you if want to scale without compromising the quality of support and loosing developer friendly tools. And at the same time, not want to spend a fortune. I have been using WPEngine for a long time and never had any problems with them.

WP Engine is recommended for:

  • Users who are running a single WordPress site with medium to high level traffic,
  • There is a possibility of your site go viral and hit Reddit front page,
  • Your WordPress site is your main income source,
  • You are always worrying about hackers and malwares,
  • You don’t like handling the tedious WordPress maintenance job – such as site back up and file cache tuning;

Make the move as I did with WHSR and quit worrying about your site being hacked or down due to traffic surge.

 

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Order WP Engine Now

For more details or to order WP Engine, visit: https://www.wpengine.com

 

(P/S: The links pointing to WP Engine in this page are affiliate links. If you purchase via this link, it will credit me as your referrer. This is how I keep this site alive for almost 8 years and able to add more free, helpful hosting reviews. Buying via my link doesn’t cost you more – in fact, you will get extra discount from the given promo code WPE20. Your support is highly appreciated, thank you! )