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WPEngine Review: Does it Really Make Your Site Load Any Faster?

WordPress currently powers just over 26% of the web – a pretty amazing statistic.

From TED to TechCrunch to an 11th grader’s short poem blog – WordPress provides an endless list of possibilities.

Part of what makes WordPress so amazing is that not only can it power TED.com, but it’s also suitable for an 11th grader’s blog. From millions of visits daily to just a few visitors per month – WordPress can get the job done.

If your website generates serious traffic, you should definitely consider managed WordPress hosting. WordPress.com VIP hosting is perfect for MNCs like BBC and Time, but it requires a substantial investment – plans start from $3,750 per month.

Enter one of the most reputed and popular WordPress managed hosting solutionsWP Engine.

In today’s article, I’m going to try and produce a fair, all-around review of WP Engine.

WP Engine was founded by Ben Metcalfe and Jason Cohen back in July 2010. Their current CEO is Heather Brunner who has moved up from the COO position. Heather Brunner was previously COO at Bazaarvoice and according to WP Engine, “She’s been an amazing force to help us grow and keep improving our customer service as we grow.”

And that’s true, considering that fact that they have have emerged into one of the most reputed WordPress-only managed hosting companies in the industry. In just a little under three years, they’ve generated over 21.7k Twitter followers and 9.3k Facebook fans.

WPEngine Review

We’re more likely to remember the stuff we see – than the stuff we read. I’m going to bore you with more reading later 😛. To grab your attention, I thought it’d be a good idea to start off with the gallery first! Some of the images are resized, so please click on ’em for a full-screen preview.

The WP Engine Combined Dashboard gives you a bird’s eye view of the WP Engine’s capabilities– clearing the database cache, CDN control, user role permissions, error logs, and some other advanced configuration.

The User Portal allows you to view and manage (add/delete) users in your WP Engine account. It’s clean, easy and gives the stuff you need to work in a collaborative project.

The Installation manager is another great tool that lets you add/manage multiple WordPress installations and configure advanced options for each of them.

Saving the best for last is the WP Engine Control Panel.

Why WP Engine?

Three reasons – site speed, scalability, and security. WPEngine places a primary focus on those three issues. Let’s take a closer look.

1. Why is Site Speed So Important?

Your website’s speed – i.e. the amount of time it takes to respond to the request and deliver the content – is a major ranking for Google and other search engines. On top of this, there are case studies that demonstrate the relationship between site speed and revenue generation:

The bottom line, a faster website increases your chances of being well ranked.

Tech Specs:

2. Security

One of the greatest fears that all webmasters face is that of having their site hacked. A successful attack on a busy website can result in enormous traffic and monetary loss. This is the reason that larger website spend considerable time and effort protecting their websites.

Most WordPress website are the victim of automated attacks where the hackers attempt to hack the username and password for the admin account. If a hacker gains access through your admin login, they can wreak havoc. As a WordPress enthusiast, there are 2 main preventive measures which come to mind – proper security plugins and daily backups – both of which WPEngine manage for you.

Here are some key features:

3. Scalability

WPEngine’s pricing structure is based upon your website’s monthly visits – starting at $35 for 25,000 visits/month.

Let’s try to understand scalability with an example. Suppose you ran a promotion campaign in Facebook and the traffic you received from the campaign was much higher than expected. Or suppose your blog’s article was accepted in Smashing Mag which caused a short-term spike in the number of visitors. In situations where your website experiences a traffic spike, it’s possible for your site to go offline.

If you’re on a shared hosting server or a VPS server, you risk is greatest. Shared hosts have little tolerance for websites that consume more resources than they are entitled to. Fortunately, when you’re on a managed hosting service like WP Engine, a surge in traffic wouldn’t cause any downtime although it might incur extra charges for that particular month because of the additional resources required.

Managed hosting is one of your top choices when it comes to dealing with the possibility of an unexpected traffic surge, WPEngine does not place restrictions on your website caused by traffic spikes or unusual events– they simply serve the page requests as normal – quickly and efficiently.

Technical Info:

It’s important you understand how ‘visits’ are counted. You could also visit their blog for a detailed explanation.

Our pricing is based on visits to your site, so it’s important that we make it clear what counts as a visitor so that it makes sense how we bill sites. There are different ways to define a visitor, and depending on which service you’re using, Google Analytics, for example, visitors may be defined and measured differently. We take the number of unique IP addresses seen in a 24-hour period as the number of “visits” to the site during that period. The number of “visits” in a given month is the sum of those daily visits during that month.

In simple terms, the number of visits in 24 hours equals to the number of unique IP addresses that visits your site in that time span of 24 hours. Similarly, the number of unique IP addresses logged in 30 days is the total number of visits in that month. If the total no of visits exceeds 25,000, then there are special “overage packages” available, so you can simply pay for the traffic you exceed.

Cool Features You Should Know About:

Now that we’ve covered some of the general features that are most common to every hosting company, let’s focus our attention to what makes WPEngine a leader in the managed WordPress hosting industry.

1. Staging Area:

This is one feature I absolutely love about WP Engine. It’s perfect for geeks like us who love to fiddle around with a theme’s CSS. It’s a great tool for theme and developers to test out the site before incorporating changes in the main site. What the staging area does is clones a copy of the site on a separate sub-domain, where you can test new plugins and theme modifications. If a plugin breaks the site, you can simply create a new clone and start again. Once your changes are complete, you can roll the new version of your website – easy-peasy!

2. Curated Plugins:

The folks over at WPEngine are very good at what they do. They only hire well-known WordPress experts and developers in order to keep the quality of service and security top-notch. That’s the reason they’ve come up with their list of featured plugins – and a list of disallowed plugins.

3. Managed WordPress Updates:

I remember one time, when I updated to version 3.5 (the version with the new Media Manager), the Edit Post page stopped working. I literally couldn’t create new posts or edit old ones. I had to roll back to the last available backup. I quickly emailed the theme developers. Thankfully, this issue was persistent with the top theme companies and subsequent theme updates were released quickly.

Thanks to this experience, I’ll always be a bit nervous about pressing that final Update button. But with WPEngine, I don’t have to get nervous before clicking the Upgrade button.

That is because WPEngine comes with managed upgrades, i.e. when WordPress gets updated, the new version will be tested by WPEngine first, and then rolled out to you, the client. This ensures major plugin and theme compatibility. Even if you did manage to somehow wreck something, WPEngine’s daily backups can restore your site in a flash and make that mistake disappear!

4. Built-in Login Lockdowns:

Security is a top priority at . Using the Limit Login Attempts Plugin, you can control the number of failed login attempts before banning a user or taking a variety of other actions:

5. Support

This is one of the most crucial factors in any business and WPEngine nails it. It uses one of my favorite support panels – ZenDesk. This means all my tickets are both private and secure – and I can keep track of them easily. They also have email and phone support ( 1-877-WPENGINE) along with a detailed FAQ. Most importantly, they have the highest ratio of support personnel to customers compared to any other hosting provider. And they’re all WordPress experts.

6. Git Version Control

The company constantly tries to improve their quality of service and their developer-friendly features. Recently, they had introduced a new feature – Git Push. Git is a source-code synchronization tool for developers. It was originally developed by Linus Torvalds – the founder of the Linux Operating System. He used Git to control and maintain the revisions of the operating system’s code. Git can be used to write any form of code and control its revisions. This means you can write custom WordPress plugins, themes and custom versions of WordPress using Git. WP Engine allows you to leverage the power of Git in your site with version control.

7. Automatic Backups

Backup are a serious matter and all webmasters know it. WP Engine takes their customer’s backups very seriously and offers a host of other features that makes them one-of-a-kind.

WP Engine conducts a daily automatic backup of all your files in your account and saves them to their servers along with another copy in AWS Glacier servers. WPEngine retains up to a 30 day backup of your site.

8. 1-Click Restore Points

With automatic backups, WP Engine has also introduced 1-Click restore points. With this feature, you can select any one of the 30 backups and with a click of a button, you can restore your site to that state. If you manage to break your site with a new plugin, and you can’t get it back to a working state – the 1-Click Restore Point feature is a painless lifesaver!

Word of Caution: When you restore your site to an earlier date, all your new data will be erased. This means any new comments and posts that you might have published (from the time of the selected restore point), will be lost. Always make a current backup before restoring to a previous version.

8. GeoIP Lookup

This feature lets WP Engine know where your visitors come from – whether it’s the tropical islands of Hawaii or the freezing horizons of Alaska. In case your website has content specific to different geographical areas, you’ll serve different versions based upon your visitors location. For example, if it’s the 4th of July, then you might want to offer a sale to visitors from the US.

Earlier, you would have to use 3rd party services for GeoIP lookup. But with this new feature, you can directly obtain it by querying WP Engine’s API. Read more about this feature in their blog post.

9. Transferable Installs

If you’re a developer, you’ll love this feature. Transferable installs allow you to get started on a project before a client has even set up their hosting. If you choose, you can work on a project to completion and then simply “push” or transfer the install into your clients account. This feature has the added bonus of allowing you, the developer to retain control of the install until your final bill is paid. Less hassle, less risk and easier workflow!

Pricing

Many argue that the pricing model of the Managed hosting isn’t really quite compatible with new websites or ones with decent traffic. Yes, the pricing seems high, but when you consider the sheer number of features that are included – ninja-like security, uber fast site speed, and expert WordPress support – it’s actually a steal!

It’s also worthwhile to note that WP Engine’s Growth plan ($115 / month) offers the highest number visits for the money of any other managed host. So it’s fair to say that the value for your money is actually quite high.

WP Engine Labs

This is the division of WP Engine that brought you the awesome new Git Version Control feature. I want to discuss two of their current projects:

WP Engine Search

WP Engine Search is a project designed to improve the user experience when it comes to searching on your website. Using a plugin by ElasticSearch, searching your website will no longer require searching the database. Results will be nearly real-time, highly accurate and sorted based upon the age of the post. Integrated with WP Search is a feature that will allow you to display related content below each post, improving time-on-site and overall user experience.

PHP with HHVM

If you think WP Engine is fast now, HHVM should take that to a whole new level offering improved reliability and performance that is up to 5.6 times faster. HHVM is essentially an open source project designed to run PHP code significantly faster that standard PHP 5.5. The specific platform will be called Mercury and you can expect a sizable boost to performance for higher traffic sites and an improved ability to handle things like traffic spikes.

Speed tests with popular WordPress Themes

So I’ve been rambling a long time about how fast WP Engine is. I thought, why not do a site load time test with two hosts – one being HostGator and the other, WP Engine.

GTmetrix

Host 1: WP Engine >> Personal Plan >> Managed WordPress Hosting

Host 2: HostGator >> Baby Plan >> Shared Web Hosting

Pingdom

Host 1: WPEngine >> Personal Plan >> Managed WordPress Hosting

Host 2: HostGator >> Baby Plan >> Shared Web Hosting

WPEngine and Community

In my years of scouring the Internet, I have come across very few company blogs that take an active interest in giving back to society. WPEngine is a family which in currently experiencing rapid growth. This means their entire network is serving around 20 million visitors every day! All of these hits delivered in the fastest possible time!

Even with this rapid growth, the company hasn’t stopped giving back. Whether it’s celebrating Veteran’s Day with the military veterans working at WP Engine or providing care packages for the homeless, or installing a new sign on their building,

WPEngine is a closely knit family of individuals working toward progress.

Final Review – Do You Really Need WP Engine?

WPEngine is one of the best managed WordPress hosting providers out there. Here’s a quick summary of their primary features:

  1. Super fast hosting – thanks to caching technologies.
  2. Highly secure, malware protected hosting.
  3. Expert WordPress customer support.
  4. High scalability.
  5. Competitive pricing.
  6. Tons of user friendly features.

The only drawback I could find is that, in the CDN add-on, music, and videos aren’t included – probably because they consume massive amounts of data. Other than that, its a great ride.

So should I switch over to WP Engine?

Still not convinced, check out what Jerry Low has to say about WPEngine:

Extremely reliable and fast hosting; user satisfaction in server performance guaranteed since 2011. And, not to mention that WP Engine’s uptime is backed by SLA – you get refunds if the host is not serving you enough uptime.

You should switch over to WP Engine if:

You should wait before shifting to WP Engine if:

That’s it for our WPEngine review.

Hope we’ve been able to motivate you enough to switch over to WPEngine (if you meet the above criteria). If you’re already on WP Engine, do share your experience – we’d love that!

If you’re interested in giving WP Engine a try, use the below link to get 30% exclusive WPEngine discount or 5 months free.

Visit WPEngine »