I’ve hosted most of my sites with BlueHost the last six years, but I recently migrated this one over to WP Engine. I was mainly curious to see what the impact on page speed would be. As WP Theming has grown in traffic so have load times– despite good caching, gzipped files, minified scripts and css, and sprited images.
The home page of the site had a page speed score of 96% before the migration and roughly 81% after. No theme code changed and the only plugin removal was W3 Total Cache. However, load times improved significantly (as measured by Google):
You’ll notice average page speed is 1.47 seconds faster, which is a significant 25% improvement. I’d venture to guess the numbers might be even more impressive for someone who had not already worked to optimize load times.
I’ve opened about six support tickets since migrating to WP Engine. All of them got an initial response within 24 hours, and sometimes within minutes. A few were for items I hope WP Engine automates in the future- such as enabling the CDN and the initial transfer of DNS. Others were for plugin issues, a broken menu link, and support for the staging environment. All were resolved fairly quick.
One major benefit of being with a WordPress dedicated host is that the support team can answer really specific WordPress questions. I’ve also met a several of them, and they’re all super helpful and knowledgeable folks.
WP Engine Drawbacks
Before you jump ship with your current shared host, there are a couple items to consider.
Cost: WP Engine hosting plans start at $29/mo compared to around $8/mo with a company like BlueHost or HostGator. If you have higher traffic levels, you might need the $99/mo plan, compared with around $45/mo for a VPS with a company like InMotion and MediaTemple.
Lots of Sites? If you have a large number of low traffic sites, you’ll likely want to keep them somewhere that doesn’t change on a per site basis. Even though I migrated wptheming.com, I kept my hosting package with BlueHost for other domains- including a multisite install that runs off a subdomain of wptheming.com.
E-mail: WP Engine does not provide email as part of the hosting package, so you’ll need to use something like Google Apps, which is another couple bucks a month if you don’t have it already.
WP Engine Benefits
Daily Backups: It’s amazing how many people don’t have any backup system for their sites, so it’s great that WP Engine built this in and made it automatic. You can and should set up backups on other hosts (of course), but it generally involves a little technical know-how or buying a plugin like Backup Buddy or service like VaultPress (comment if you’ve found a free and easy way to do it).
Staging Environment: Anyone who develops WordPress sites knows the pain of setting up a staging environment to test new code. WP Engine has made this fun. You simply press a button and an exact duplicate of your site is synced to a development environment.
If you currently have several sites in the same account, it’s a lot cheaper to keep those all on a shared host or general VPS. If one takes off, you can always move it later- like I’ve done with WP Theming.
If you run a single install of WordPress with medium to high traffic, WP Engine would probably be a good fit- especially if earn revenue from the site and can afford to pay a bit more for hosting.
If you run a single install of WordPress with low traffic, WP Engine might still might be a good choice for the convenience of automatic backups, regular security scans, and a knowledgeable support staff. However, the extra cost won’t make it worth it for everyone.
If you have a super high traffic site, you might also want to read this review.
Disclosure: WP Engine sponsors quite a few WordCamps and WordPress events and they’ve been offering free hosting to attendees. My account is one of these complimentary hosting packages. WP Engine links are affiliate.
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