Regardless of what type of website you’re running or developing, quality hosting is essential. There are thousands of hosting companies out there and choosing the right one can be a challenge.
VandelayDesign.com has been hosted with six different companies since the site launched in 2006. During the first few years, we had our share of hosting-related headaches and even a few major disasters. However, since 2014 (about 7 years at the time I’m writing this), our site has been hosted with WP Engine, and we have no plans to go anywhere else.
Based on the fact that we’ve been with WP Engine for so long, it’s easy to see that we believe in their service. However, we know that no host is right for every situation, so this WP Engine review shares all the details you’ll need to know if it’s the right choice for you.
What is Managed WordPress Hosting?
WP Engine offers managed WordPress hosting, but you may be wondering what that really means. There are two components to it:
- Managed – Managed hosting means that the host is actively involved in keeping your site online and secure. They’re not simply giving you access to a server.
- WordPress – WordPress hosting uses servers and technology that’s been set up and optimized specifically for websites that are powered by WordPress, the world’s most popular content management system (CMS).
Managed WordPress hosting is an appropriate choice for any business, organization, or individual that wants to have some help with the technical details of running their site. Since everything is optimized for WordPress, your site will perform better than it would with cheaper hosting plans.
About WP Engine
WP Engine was one of the pioneers of managed WordPress hosting. The company was founded in 2010 due to the growing popularity of WordPress. Traditional hosting plans were not ideal for WordPress sites, so Jason Cohen started WP Engine to provide something better. The company now has offices in several locations around the world.
The hosting plans offered by WP Engine are specifically for WordPress-powered websites, so you won’t be able to host websites with other CMSs on their servers.
WordPress E-Commerce Hosting
While WP Engine offers hosting for WordPress-powered websites of all kinds, they also offer hosting specifically for e-commerce websites. The free WooCommerce plugin can be used to build an e-commerce site that sells physical products or digital downloads. You can use WooCommerce for small shops or large sites with thousands of products.
Aside from the general features WP Engine offers on all of its plans (which we’ll cover in a minute), the e-commerce hosting features include:
- Quick Setup Wizard – Build your e-commerce website in a matter of minutes without the need to touch any code. There’s no need to hire an expensive developer to get your site up and running.
- Instant Search – The site search functionality is critical to e-commerce success and WP Engine offers an instant search that provides search suggestions and allows you to put your most important products in front of visitors. According to WP Engine, Instant Search leads to an 18% increase in conversion rates on average.
E-Commerce Hosting: 3 Months Free!
Use the coupon code ecommwpe10 to get 3 months free on any annual e-commerce hosting plan from WP Engine. View the plans here.
WP Engine Features
What makes WP Engine the best managed WordPress host? Here are some of the leading features you’ll love
StudioPress WordPress Themes
WP Engine acquired StudioPress, one of the leading WordPress theme shops. Now that they own StudioPress, WP Engine offers all of its customers access to premium themes at no extra cost.
StudioPress developed one of the leading theme frameworks, Genesis. They also offer more than 30 child themes that run on the Genesis framework. As a WP Engine customer, you get free access to any and all of the themes from StudioPress.
Genesis has earned a very strong reputation from developers and business owners, so getting access at no additional cost is a huge perk.
Development and Staging Environments
To help keep your website secure and functioning well, WP Engine offers development and staging environments that can be set up in just a matter of a few clicks. This allows you to test changes to your site without impacting the live site.
Development environments are intended to be used when you’re in the process of developing a custom theme or other changes to your site. You can use the staging environment to test details before pushing them to the live site.
For example, you might want to make changes to your theme or test new updates for plugins without impacting your live website in case something goes wrong.
It’s easy to create development and staging environments from your WP Engine dashboard. You can create it from scratch or duplicate your live site and then just make specific changes.
A content delivery network (CDN) is one of the best ways to speed up your websites. The CDN stores your static assets, like images used on your website, on servers at various locations around the world. When a visitor arrives at your site, he or she will be served the files from the server that is the closest physically, reducing the time to load.
Images and some other static files tend to be large and can have a significant impact on your site’s load speeds.
WP Engine customers benefit from a CDN that helps websites to load faster and handle spikes in traffic more effectively.
Another proven way to speed up a website is to make use of caching, which involves storing and reusing previously generated data.
WordPress is a great CMS, but you need to have some sort of caching set up in order to get peak performance. There are a number of WordPress caching plugins you could use, but they can be notoriously fickle to set up and configure if you’re not a developer. In some cases, the caching plugin will do more harm than good if it’s not configured correctly.
WP Engine customers don’t need to mess with caching plugins because WP Engine automatically handles the caching for you. This is a huge benefit for the average WordPress user.
Having a sufficient backup system in place is one of the keys to a secure website. Again, WP Engines takes care of that for you.
WP Engine automatically backs up your site everyday. From your dashboard, you can easily see when the last backup was run, and you manually initiate a backup any time. If you’ve made changes and you don’t want to wait for the automatic daily backup, all you need to do is click a button to initiate the backup.
Of course, being able to restore a backup is equally important, and WP Engine makes that easy as well. You can simply click to restore your backup anytime needed. If you’re not comfortable handling this on your own, you can also reach out to WP Engine for support.
Will you be moving an existing website from another host? WP Engine has a WordPress plugin that will handle the migration automatically. If you’ve ever moved a WordPress-based website manually, you know it can be a pain. This plugin will save you a lot of time, and may also save you some money by not needing to hire a developer for the migration.
WordPress Core Updates
WP Engine will handle all major WordPress core updates automatically, helping you to keep your site up-to-date without any effort on your part. They also test minor WordPress updates for stability before recommending them to customers.
WP Engine Plans and Pricing
Like most hosting companies, WP Engine offers several different plans to choose from. Customers have the choice of paying monthly or saving some money by paying for a year upfront.
- Startup ($30 per month, or $25 per month if paid yearly) – Host a single website with up to 25,000 visits per month, 10 GB of local storage and 50GB of bandwidth per month.
- Professional ($59 per month, or $49 per month if paid yearly) – Host up to 3 websites with a total of up to 75,000 visits per month, 15 GB of local storage and 125 GB of bandwidth per month.
- Growth ($115 per month, or $95 per month if paid yearly) – Host up to 10 websites with a total of up to 100,000 visits per month, 20 GB of local storage and 200 GB of bandwidth per month.
- Scale ($290 per month, or $241 per month if paid yearly) – Host up to 30 websites with a total of up to 400,000 visits per month with 50 GB of local storage and 500 GB of bandwidth per month).
Prices are slightly higher for the e-commerce hosting plans and you can see those details here.
It’s important to note that WP Engine counts visits based on its logs, not by using stats from Google Analytics. Traffic from spiders and bots will be counted so you may find that WP Engine shows your site as having more visitors than is indicated by Google Analytics. In the WP Engine dashboard, you can see details on visitors, bandwidth, and storage at any time.
Customer Service and Support
When you’re looking for a web host, be sure to choose one that offers support around the clock. You never know when you’ll need help and you don’t want to be in a situation where your site is down and support isn’t accessible.
WP Engine offers 24/7 support for all customers via online chat. Phone support is also available 24/7 for customers on all plans except for the Startup plan.
In the years that we’ve been hosting our site with WP Engine, I don’t think I’ve ever called for support by phone, so I don’t have any personal experience to share there.
However, I’ve had great experience with support via chat. An agent is usually available right away, or I might have to wait a few minutes at the most.
Unlike some other hosts that don’t provide quality support, all of the support reps at WP Engine are WordPress experts. They’re very knowledgeable and helpful. From my experience, their customer is outstanding.
Pros and Cons
So far, we’ve looked at a lot of the details related to WP Engine and its hosting plans. However, as I mentioned at the beginning, no hosting company is right for every situation. The pros and cons covered here should help you to see how WP Engine stacks up as a solution for your own hosting needs.
Pros of WP Engine
- Top-notch performance – Sites hosted by WP Engine will load quickly and have very few issues with downtime caused by the hosting. If performance is important to you, WP Engine is a great choice.
- Security – WP Engine provides around-the-clock monitoring and several security features, plus automated daily backups.
- Excellent support – Customer service is available 24/7 from WordPress experts. The supports reps are friendly and genuinely helpful.
- Convenient – WP Engine takes care of the details so you don’t have to worry about hosting or dedicate time to things like setting up caching plugins, dealing with backups, updating WordPress, and more.
- Easy-to-use staging and development environments – The staging and development environments are very helpful for ensuring that your production website is functional.
Cons of WP Engine
- The price won’t fit into every budget – WP Engine’s prices are high compared to low-cost shared hosts like Bluehost. The price is fair for everything that you get, but it might not fit into every budget.
- Does not offer email hosting – You’ll need to host email someplace else because WP Engine does not offer it. You can still have an email address at your domain name, but it will be powered by Gmail or some other provider.
- Disallowed plugins – There are some plugins that WP Engine does not allow its customers to use. This is mostly because the plugins duplicate something that WP Engine handles automatically like caching or backups. They have a good reason for not allowing the plugins, but it might be frustrating if you’re not able to use a plugin that you like.
Is WP Engine Worth the Price?
When you’re comparing web hosting packages and prices, you’ll probably wonder it’s a good idea to pay more for WP Engine as compared to a lower-priced host like Bluehost.
In my opinion and from my experience, WP Engine is worth the price. Even though the price is higher there are some features included that will save you money, like:
- Caching – You won’t have to pay for a premium plugin like WP Rocket.
- CDN – You can use a CDN with another host, but you’ll pay for it separately.
- Automated backups – There’s no need for a monthly or annual fee for a backup solution.
- Premium WordPress theme – You’ll get access to all of the StudioPress themes at no extra cost.
- Development/support – Having access to support from WordPress experts may save you money by not needing to hire a developer to troubleshoot.
In the end, WP Engine may not actually cost you more when you factor everything in. However, if your budget only allows for a low-priced hosting plan, we recommend Bluehost (you can read our Bluehost review here).