2021 January 8
WP Engine promises a completely different WordPress hosting experience and adds a bunch of stuff in its plans. So are these top-tier offerings any good or will they just suck your bank account dry? Let’s find out!
STANDS FOR “SUPERB”. THIS PROVIDER IS AMONGST THE BEST IN THE MARKET.
STANDS FOR “SUPERB”. THIS PROVIDER IS AMONGST THE BEST IN THE MARKET.
SPEED — 211ms
This provider sets the standard for fast web hosting.
UPTIME — 99.99%
Ultra reliable, your website rarely will go down.
PRICING — 7.0/10
Premium, the provider is expensive.
While shared web hosting is a nice budget option, managed WordPress is a whole new category with quite unique offerings. And that’s exactly what WP Engine is selling.
In this WPEngine review, I want to talk about this managed WordPress hosting giant. Can it be the hero with low prices and amazing performance that makes managed hosting everyone’s first choice?
Or is it just another black hole that will suck your bank account dry?
There’s only one way to find out – testing everything that WP Engine has to offer. From a detailed price analysis and speed tests to all of the premium features offered.
And yes, I did spend $700 on this review.
So let’s begin with everything there is to know before you buy WP Engine.
WP Engine plans start at $25 a month and end with… A custom plan that can cost thousands of dollars a month. The provider justifies the pricing, claiming that they are offering the best WordPress hosting based on a unique architecture that delivers speed, scalability, and security.
Each of these plans is equipped with many features including SSL certificates, staging tools, caching, and premium WordPress themes.
Let’s make a short analysis out of this.
If you only need one website that works perfectly and you’re familiar with web hosting – the Starter plan for $25/mo might actually be worth it. You’ll get the reliable infrastructure as well as tools that will help you manage the website like a pro and remove a lot of manual labor and room for error.
That being said, the Growth plan coming in at $95 a month is absolutely not worth it. In theory, it lets you host 10 websites which would be great for freelancers or small agencies. In theory. But in reality, it only gives you 20GB of storage. Meanwhile, you get 10GB of that with the cheapest plan for 1 website. That’s 10x more sites and only 2x more storage. Barely any resources to work with.
Now, if you are planning to get WP Engine as a freelancer or an agency, Scale for $241.67/mo offers the best value. The price might seem insanely steep for 1 website but it’s actually quite cheap if you’re hosting 20 or 30 sites. That’s just around $10 per site a month with the top performance. Your clients will be absolutely satisfied to get that.
To put it shortly, you get amazing value and performance rate purchasing the Starter plan if you have 1 site. For business use, Scale is the best option – resources, price, and performance rate is absolutely worth every penny of that $241.67/mo.
Personally, I’ve bought the Starter plan for this WPEngine review to test it out. All the features are completely the same as in other plans apart from the resources allocated. However, I have also added Global Edge Security and Smart Plugin Manager add-ons to test out. In total, that’s a huge splurge – $700 for a year worth of hosting.
WP Engine markets itself as a Digital Experience Platform. It’s hard to disagree – it does create a custom website management experience with a native dashboard. The design is super simple and clean. Creating and managing websites is also a quick and easy task.
To add a new site, simply click the “Add Site” button and type the name you want to use with that site. You can also select a group to which the site will belong to.
The “Grouping” tool shows that WP Engine is really meant to manage multiple sites at once. While I did not add any groups for my single site, you can put them in different categories, for example, based on clients or niches. It’s like creating folders on your desktop – helps to keep everything neat and organized.
When you’re done filling in the information, the website will be created automatically and assigned a temporary domain. For example, mine was emitreviewsite.wpengine.com. With that, you’ll be able to access the WordPress dashboard right away.
However, WP Engine’s modded version of WordPress comes with certain quirks that are a) meant to protect your site, b) meant to protect WP Engine’s internal systems. For example, you won’t be able to install some plugins for both security and conflict reasons. These include caching, backup, and email management plugins.
Might be a drawback to some, but it’s actually meant to keep your site as fast as possible and reduce the risk of system failure.
So all of this is kind of regular hosting stuff. So why the hell did I pay $25 a month for 1 website?
First things first, for your website, you actually get to work in 3 separate environments:
So without your visitors seeing, you can change themes, implement new functionalities – test them – and push to live. Flawlessly.
But that's not all, is it? I also tested if speed matches the price tag.
For WPEngine’s performance evaluation, I did 3 tests that I always do – speed, stress, and stability. They allow me to get a full view of the provider’s performance. We can see how fast it can load websites, how it reacts when dozens of visitors come in at the same time, and how stable it is in a long run.
My first test is the speed test that I do using GTMetrix software. To get a good baseline, I used my A2 Hosting and SiteGround shared web hosting plans that are around 60% cheaper than WP Engine. I used completely the same design with all of them.
SiteGround loaded the site in 1.8 seconds, A2 Hosting came in at 1.9 seconds, while WP Engine managed to load it in 1.4 seconds.
While a 0.4-second difference might not look like a lot, but WP Engine is actually 22% faster. And that’s on a site without any users – scaling up would make the loading speed difference much more noticeable.
Not much surprise here – WP Engine delivers better performance than shared web hosting plans no matter how expensive they are. That’s because you’re not sharing resources with the websites of other users. This equals better and more consistent performance for your site.
One thing that allows WP Engine to achieve the fastest performance possible is that they have servers all over the world. In 7 locations to be exact. You can choose the one that is closest to your main audience and so improve page loading times.
And this increase is not just barely noticeable.
For example, in this case, when tested from Canada, a website loads in 2.2 seconds. Meanwhile, when tested from the US, the page loading time drops to 1.4 seconds. It’s not difficult to guess where the website is hosted.
Such an increase is thanks to the fact that the website files that are stored on the server don’t have to travel a huge distance. So the closer your site is to the audience, the faster it loads.
Another test will show us if WP Engine can handle a lot of traffic on their sites. I’ve sent 50 bots for 5 minutes to see if they can slow down my site.
And to my surprise, the slowdown, as minimal as it can be, did happen. According to the K6 Cloud software that I used, once at 50 users, performance started to decline. A little.
And I know, I know; you might think that 50 visitors is not a big number. But to put it in a perspective, keeping 50 visitors 24/7 would mean hundreds of thousands of users each month. That’s because one user will spend anywhere from a couple of seconds to a couple of minutes at a time – they will keep changing every second.
So as stated by WP Engine themselves, the cheapest plan would reach its peak performance if you’re getting up to 25k monthly visits. Which still is a lot.
Last but not least, I monitored the stability of my WP Engine website.
In over 4 months, there were only 3 outages putting the overall uptime at 99.98%.
This would mean that you’d only have 1 hour and 45 minutes of downtime a year. Meanwhile, most of the providers guarantee only 99.9% uptime which equals to almost 9 hours of downtime.
In this regard, WP Engine shows true stability.
All in all, WP Engine delivers on its performance promises. It is fast, stable, and reliable. Also, its plans accurately reflect the number of visitors your sites will be able to handle.
WP Engine comes with generous features by default. But I’ve spent $400 on extra stuff to see if it’s worth it. This time, I checked Global Edge Security and Smart Plugin Manager.
GES is mainly used to re-route and sort traffic preventing DDoS attacks.
DDoS attack is when someone sends a bunch of bots to your site with an intention of breaking it. If you remember how the site slowed down with 50 users, the same happens during a DDoS attack. Just thousands of times worse. In the best case, the site will slow down, in worst – crash altogether.
In fact, setting up a DDoS attack is not that difficult. Even a smart kid with the right tutorial can do it.
So Global Edge Security makes sure that this does not happen by blocking those bots, changing your IP addresses, and using a firewall to sort bots from real traffic.
Is this mandatory? No, WP Engine infrastructure is strong enough by default. But if you have a profitable site, you’ll surely have people who intend to hurt you. Adding an extra layer of security will protect your site from even the strongest attempts to take it down.
Knowing that attacks can last for days, it’s one of the features I recommend for mission-critical sites.
Another tool I paid a fortune for is Smart Plugin Manager. It works as an auto-updater for your WordPress website taking care of plugin updates.
But wait a second. First of all, WordPress already allows updating its plugins automatically, you just have to select that for every plugin. Second of all, isn’t that a bad idea to update plugins automatically as they can break your site?
Yes and yes.
But Smart Plugin Manager works slightly differently. It creates a copy of your site and tests all of the plugin updates one by one without you lifting a finger. If everything works fine, it will update the live version too.
If you only have 1 site, SPM is not worth the money – you can test and update the plugins yourself using a staging environment in a couple of minutes. But if you manage dozens of sites, it will save you a lot of time and security threats.
All things considered, the paid add-ons are worth it – for the right user. While smaller websites can survive without the additional security measures, mission-critical ones won’t. The same can be said about auto-updates – they are worth it if you are managing a bunch of sites.
You do expect only the top-level customer support with expensive managed WordPress hosting plans. And you’re right to do that. WP Engine has 24/7 live chat, phone, and email support with highly trained agents who are pros at WordPress.
Throughout the time I’ve had my site with them, I contacted support multiple times. And of course, live chat was my go-to option.
Each time, the wait times were minimal – from immediate responses to a maximum of 10 minutes. That was great.
The only thing that I disliked was that the support agents seemed to be… revolting, for the lack of a better word. They did help me with every issue that I had, but the tone was cold. As if they were slightly annoyed that I was having issues.
So while efficient, the support can be slightly unfriendly. Or at least a couple of agents I interacted with. Many WP Engine reviews praise the support and I can agree that things like that will depend only on your experience.
For additional support, you’ll also find a strong knowledge base. It covers everything from the control panel to WordPress.
What I liked even better is that the resources section on your dashboard has built-in guides.
Without leaving to read an article, you’ll have step-by-step instructions show directly on your screen. Who needs support anyway?
All around, WP Engine has efficient customer support that can be slightly cold based on my experience. However, knowledge of the agents, knowledge base and even the resources section on the dashboard are top-notch.
In this WPEngine review, we saw that they are not just another black hole sucking all of your money in. Well, they do take a lot of cash but they all go for your website speed, security, and overall management experience.
With only slight drawbacks such as a little less than friendly support, WP Engine earns my recommendation.
However, if you’re a beginner and never created a website before, there will be issues. There’s a ton of beginner-friendly providers you can start with. Take Hostinger, for example – they will take care of most of the stuff automatically too for a lot less money.
But if you’ve created sites before. If you managed sites before. And if you want a fast, stable, and feature-packed deal for your site – the Single plan might be worth a look. It will be great for a single medium-sized site that you put your hopes in.
I cannot say the same about the Grow plan – it simply provides too little for all the sites you can create.
Meanwhile, Scale is offering the best value if you are managing dozens of sites. It puts the cost per site relatively low, depending on how many sites you create. At the same time, it guarantees performance as well as the ease of managing multiple sites.
I really hope that my review helps you make the right decision for your website. Keep exploring and good luck with your website!