I based my choice for signing up with WP Engine on exhaustive and actually quite exhausting web hosting research in an attempt to minimize the time I spend on unproductive web hosting tech, in order to free up time for content creation on the Office Orbiter home office blog.
WP Engine is one of a relative few web hosts that exclusively offer premium managed WordPress hosting and I have chosen to believe that going with a webhost that specializes in my chosen CMS system, which is WordPress, is a smart decision.
In this review I will tell you how I have experienced moving to a higher end managed WordPress hosting provider and whether the move has paid off.
I hope this little WP Engine review will support you in your search for a good webhost that will enable you to drastically reduce the time you spend on researching and thinking about this topic once and for all.
Update article: Here is Why I Left WP Engine and Why I Returned
Yet another WP Engine review!
Now you may be thinking how on earth can I benefit from reading yet another web hosting review? Well, perhaps you are as overwhelmed by opinions and reviews on this subject, as I was. I can´t even guess at how many webhost reviews I have studied as well as the sales material on the web hosting sites themselves.
The topic really isn´t that exiting either and eventually I reached a point where I simply needed not to think about it anymore. These web hosting reviews tend to get rather technical and borderline religious and I could no longer be bothered.
For some reason the web hosting industry seems to be particularly difficult to wrap your head around, not least because testing a webhost is a quite involved project so unless you test the host with a dummy project you need to rely on reviews and your gut feeling.
It´s a jungle out there
Web hosting truly is a jungle and it is extremely difficult to know what is important and who to listen to since the needs of a website varies wildly. My home office point of view is a small to medium personal or small business website or blog and the needs for this kind of site is surely different than larger high traffic sites.
On top of it all, handsome affiliate commissions are often involved in reviews and referrals which add yet another aspect of uncertainty. Are people really genuine in their reviews? Are they even using or have they ever used the webhost they are reviewing?
And yes, Office Orbiter has become an affiliate with WP Engine and the links in this WP Engine review are indeed affiliate links. However, if this makes you uncomfortable, you can simply visit WP Engine directly to avoid my links. But thank you very much for your support if you choose to use a link of mine to sign up with WP-Engine.
What is a good webhost?
Obviously finding a good webhost is extremely important for your business or your personal blog or website. But what exactly is a “good web host”?
To me a good webhost is like a reliable car that only needs gas occasionally (monthly web hosting fees) and the occasional repair. I want to drive in safety and comfort and obviously break downs are not appreciated since I have neither skills nor interest in the maintenance aspects of owning a car. In other words, I need my website readily accessible and safe to visit at all times.
Some will love a webhost and some hate it just like it is the case with any exchange of goods and services. Quality and customer experiences can vary for many reasons since people are involved, so the webhost that get 100% good reviews will surely be difficult to find.
Your choice of web hosting will most likely depend on your technical skills, time, scale and budget. If you have the time and skills to keep experimenting with your site on a low price shared web hosting plan, you will surely be able to tweak your site to a decent performance.
For me the problem was that the tweaking did not seem to end! On top of that, the more I tested and experimented the more I ended up sticking my nose where it did not belong. Database stuff and many other things that you can access from a standard c-panel are better left alone unless you really know what you are doing. (At least backup your site frequently).
My own mistakes as well as other issues frequently led me to test the level of shared and even up scaled WordPress hosting support. But in both scenarios I was struggling with slow e-mail support, odd downtime periods and eventually I began my long search for web hosting alternatives.
I knew about WP Engine from my earlier research and I decided to go for it even though I was way over budget. It was very much like the feeling you get when you are after some nights in a cheap budget hotel and you just need the brief comfort of one or two extra stars above the entrance.
So far I have found what I was looking for. Since moving Office Orbiter to WP Engine 5 months ago, I have hardly spend any time on web hosting tech apart from creating the occasional extra backup before plugin upgrades.
I almost feel like I have successfully outsourced a part of my small business that was always extremely annoying and unproductive.
Some will argue that managed WordPress hosting takes the free spirit out of WordPress because you need to accept certain restrictions that are dictated by the webhost. WP Engine is no different and indeed I had to let a couple of plugins go when I signed up.
But it didn´t bother me that much really. As long as I don´t have to deal with things like caching, backup and to some extend security, I am a happy camper!
My site migration was relatively smooth by following a precise, but long and somewhat technical step by step site migration manual. On occasion WP Engine offers free migration for new signups.
If you are starting a new site, WP Engine offers the same startup convenience as other 1-click WordPress installation solutions.
A look behind the scenes of Office Orbiter
WP Engine integrates seamlessly and conveniently into WordPress. You have immediate access to your WP Engine dashboard, backup, staging area and support area.
I suppose some would consider this integration to be invasive and surely that is a valid opinion. However, for me personally this kind of convenience and transparency is exactly what I would expect from a managed WordPress solution.
You do not have the “usual” overwhelming plethora of c-panel options because most of the hardcore technical aspect is being managed by WP Engine.
Your dashboard feels tidy and clean but you still have easy access to advanced features that you might need such as SSL and CDN control.
The backup function is the feature that I enjoy the most with WP Engine
Backup happens automatically and I only think about backup when I want to install or update plugins and update my theme. When you try to update something you are recommended to go and create an update first.
- You can create ad hoc backups with your own chosen description. This could be before updating or changing your theme or other kind of site maintenance or testing.
- I have still not experienced a host where the backup is so straight forward and transparent. I doubt that backup can be easier than this (Check out the screenshot below).
- The backup feature almost feels like an integrated part of WordPress.
- You have a whole list of backup history that you can recover with one click.
- With most web hosting companies some level backup is usually performed but it always seems to be hidden out of the way deep inside the c-panel and I always have the nagging sensation that every backup erases the previous one.
I have run a speed/performance tests for you, using Pingdom tools. The test was run with the following article as an example: http://www.officeorbiter.com/acronis-true-image-2015-review/
I am providing this test for those of you who may be able to decipher the information. Personally I am unable to tell you where web hosting performance ends and where WordPress theme performance begins.
The test shows decent results but I know from earlier research that my theme seems to be pulling overall site performance down a bit. However, I test my site on every single computer that I get my hands on and the performance feels good and the site usually loads quickly.
So, is WP Engine any better?
In my humble opinion: Yes definitely! Whether the price is right is difficult to say. Personally, I am actually way over budget when I consider the ROI (Return On Investment). On the other hand, when I consider the peace of mind and sense of security I get from hosting my site with WP-Engine it´s a bargain really.
Why does it hurt so much to spend money on web hosting?
I believe the reason for our reluctance to spend real money on web hosting is that it is one of those invisible digital services that doesn´t feel like real value some how.
Our mental image of our online real estate is that we pay good money for a simple service. But one look behind the scenes in you control panel area tells you that there is nothing simple about web hosting.
If your website is online business related, step back for a second and consider the cost involved for people who run or want to build a brick and mortar business.
Is it expensive?
If the cheapest shared web hosting is enough for your business or yourself, which it actually is for a lot of people, then 29 dollar/month is a good deal of money.
So why not just find a 5-10 dollar/month web hosting plan and leave it at that? That is a good question of course. But if you take a closer look at those cheaper offers, they always depend on long signup periods. In some cases you need to sign up for 3 years to get that 5 dollar web hosting.
So if you value an ongoing freedom of choice in the matter, a 3 year contract is kind of restrictive. Surely some web hosting companies will offer full satisfaction or other exit options.
If you go for services on a monthly basis the prices climb faster than you can say “but you said it was cheap”.
The 29,- personal plan with WP Engine is on a monthly basis meaning you can leave WP Engine behind the moment you feel that the value or level of service is dropping.
If you sign up for longer term plans at WP Engine they frequently offer good deals and an example could be 12 months for the price of ten which amounts to 24 $/month.
This reduces the price to the level of many premium managed WordPress hosting plans offered by the big players in the shared web hosting arena and may be worth considering after a satisfactory test run on a monthly plan.
Summary of my experiences with WP Engine
- First and foremost, I feel that my site is secure in the hands of people who service WordPress sites for a living. They actually trust their level of security enough to claim that they will fix your site for free if your site is hacked.
- I have experienced the support to be friendly and responsive.
- I seem to get less referral spam than I am experiencing and have experienced elsewhere which I am enjoying it tremendously.
- Unbelievably convenient 1 click backup and restore.
- Convenient testing area. I actually have not used it beyond initial testing though. Mostly I try out new tools locally and simply create a backup before I use the new tool.
- Caching is all taken care of by WP Engine.
- Fast backend use of WordPress. (WordPress maintenance in your browser). Actually it feels almost as responsive as when I work a WordPress site on a local xampp Apache server.
Downsides to WP Engine
- With a new or other low traffic site, you can make do with a limited level of features and services.
- I would have liked to see a 15-20 dollar plan for startups and entrepreneurs with new or slowly growing sites.
- Certain WP plugins are not allowed such as caching plugins because WP Engine is handling the caching for you. I needed to adjust my WordPress habits slightly to adjust for these restrictions, but after settling in this has not been an issue for me. I chose WP engine exactly because I wanted someone capable to handle most of the hosting tech for me.
- Expensive depending on the size your operation and whether your business can cover the cost.
- Compared to other managed WordPress hosting providers the allowed amount of monthly visits on the personal plan may seem limiting to some.
- Limited scaling options for individuals and small business owners. You can go from 1 to 10 sites which mean a step up from 30 to 100 dollar a month. However if you actually have 8-10 sites the value starts to increase significantly.
- No mail service. If you need a mail account for your site(domain) you have to sign up with e-mail services such as G-Mail for business or Microsoft 365 Exchange.
WP Engine offers a 60 day satisfaction and money back guarantee.
If you can handle the cost without putting too much stress on other areas of your personal or business finances, WP Engine could offer you a scenario like I have just described for my personal small business.
If you run a new low traffic site and are on a budget you do not really need managed WordPress hosting unless you can afford it and just want the added convenience and security while you are building and growing your site and perhaps your business.
My goal with this WP Engine review was to offer some insight into a higher end yet still affordable managed WordPress hosting solution that is suitable for at small business, home office scenario and I hope my experiences were helpful for you in your search for a good web host for your WordPress site or blog.