Finding the best web hosting service for your site can be a challenge. There are a ton of hosting providers and finding the one most suitable for your site can take a while.
But if you’re building your site on WordPress, picking a host becomes a lot easier. If that’s the case, your best bet is to go with managed WordPress hosting.
WP Engine is the pioneer of managed WordPress hosting. They were the very first company to focus on WordPress 100%. This provider can count organizations like Tele2, Unicef and HelloFresh among their customers and they have over 120,000 users across 140 countries.
WP Engine is a premium managed WordPress hosting provider and is therefore a lot pricier than your average web host. They are primarily used by professional and experienced WordPress users. Their hosting is fast, secure and stable.
But the question is:
Is WP Engine the right hosting provider for your website?
You’ll find out by reading this review. We’ll take a look at WP Engine’s performance, customer support and hosting plans. And we’ll see how well these factors stack up against the (rather steep) price tag their plans are endowed with.
The pioneer of managed WordPress hosting
WP Engine is fully geared to hosting WordPress websites. In fact, the only web app you can install on WP Engine is WordPress. This has done wonders for their performance and customer support.
Uptime is the most important variable when it comes to judging any hosting provider. Loading speed, friendly customer support and state of the art server hardware become totally irrelevant if you’ve got a website which experiences frequent downtime.
WP Engine’s uptime is among the best in the industry.
Looking at what Pingdown has to say about a test website, we can see that over a span of 8 months WP Engine hit a perfect uptime score for 6 months.
This is insanely good.
For websites with a commercial angle where every minute of downtime costs money, you’d definitely want your uptime to be as high as possible.
Furthermore, WP Engine is completely transparent about their maintenance schedule. Many companies aren’t, which means you’re left in the dark when it comes to website downtime due to scheduled maintenance.
Speed is crucial for every website.
Does your site suffer from slow loading speed? Then your bounce rate will increase and you’ll fall from Google’s grace, meaning your site will appear lower in the search results.
As you can see in the previous section, WP Engine’s speed hoovers between 403 and 584 milliseconds over the course of 8 months. The average speed per month is 465 is milliseconds. To put this into context: this is about twice as fast as your average web host.
Aggressive sales staff, mixed support
WP Engine tends to respond in less than a minute to your queries through live chat. If you wish, you can also reach them through phone (except with their cheapest plan). Both channels are available 24/7.
All of WP Engine’s customer support staff are grizzled WordPress experts. Given what they charge, you shouldn’t have to expect anything less than that.
However, the sales side of their customer support team – whom you deal with before turning into a customer – is incredibly aggressive. They immediately push you to take a call, avoid your questions, and lie about their competition. If you ask them how they justify their high prices over their more affordable competitors, prepare to be showered in falsehoods.
A dirty trick WP Engine’s sales staff pull is asking you if they can see your site. Once you share your URL, their standard response is something like: “Strange! It appears I can’t open your website.” This an obvious, and pretty sleezy way to sow doubt about the stability of your current hosting provider.
The hosting industry is fiercely competitive. Having said that, I’m not seeing any of WP Engine’s competitors act in such a distasteful manner. To be honest, this leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.
Their tech support staff are in general capable people and pleasant to deal with. However, it seems that over the last few years the average quality has degraded a bit. Users are reporting mixed experiences, detailing how some of WP Engine’s support staff appears poorly trained. To be fair, you wouldn’t expect this from a premium WordPress hosting company.
WP Engine’s technical prowess
WP Engine’s tech is definitely a few notches above that of your average web host.
Google Cloud Platform and AWS
WP Engine’s server architecture has been built on the Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services (AWS). This means they are using the best hardware out there.
Their AWS-servers are only available for their Premium dedicated hosting plans (which are only relevant for really big websites and companies). But us mere mortals definitely have no reason to complain about the Google Cloud Platform.
WP Engine is using 11 Google Cloud servers across the world. This means that in most places across the globe visitors will experience your site to be super-fast.
Another technological advantage WP Engine brings to the table is their bespoke EverCache front-end system: one of the most scalable systems for caching WordPress sites in the industry.
So weather you’re pulling in 10,000 visitors a day or within minutes, EverCache ensures your site will load fast for every single visitor.
The single worst moment for your site to crash is when you publish a blog post that goes viral. WP Engine has developed EverCache to prevent this from happening.
The last important piece of tech which contributes to WP Engine’s speed is a CDN, or Content Delivery Network, which you’ll get for free. A CDN ensures your site from whichever data center is closest to them. WP Engine offers MaxCDN.
User friendliness, extra’s and costs
WP Engine’s uptime and speed are great, while their support is a bit mixed. But how about user-friendliness, extras such as email and an SSL-certificate, and costs?
You manage your account through the WP Engine User Portal. From here you can add websites, try new versions of your sites in a staging environment, and upgrade or downgrade your plan.
WP Engine developed their own dashboard, so you won’t be using cPanel. Their dashboard is intuitive and easy to use. Given we’re dealing here with managed WordPress hosting, this isn’t surprising. You’d expect the hosting provider to have done the heavy lifting for you.
Aside from registering a WP Engine hosting plan there isn’t that much configuration left for you to do. If you’re looking for a hosting solution where you have to do as little as possible before you can get cracking, then WP Engine is a compelling choice.
Having said, there’s still plenty of opportunities for experienced WordPress users to go all out with the available developer tools.
All of WP Engine’s plans come with a free SSL-certificate, a CDN and a dev/staging environment. A free SSL-certificate is something any host worth their salt offers these days. But a good, free CDN and a dev/staging environment are a lot less common.
WP Engine doesn’t offer a domain registration service. You’ll have to use a third party such Google Domains. This is a little inconvenient, but it falls totally in line with WP Engine’s philosophy. Instead of being a jack of trades, WP Engine focusses on just one thing: being the best WordPress hosting provider out there.
Although it’s convenient to register a domain through your web hosting provider, you do tend to pay more than you would using a dedicated domain registration service.
WP Engine also doesn’t offer any email accounts. You’d have to use a provider like G Suite. This is a bit of a bummer. However, as a prospective WP Engine user you’d probably be keen on using a dedicated email provider anyway, instead of an open-source email provider that comes with a hosting provider.
However, WP Engine does offer their StudioPress themes and the Genesis Framework for free with all of their plans. These are solid tools which can save you hundreds of dollars you’d otherwise might spend on a premium WordPress theme.
WP Engine is considerably more expensive than your average web host. Given the quality differential the comparison isn’t completely fair, but the bottom line is that WP Engine’s cheapest plan is 30 times as expensive as Hostinger’s.
So let’s break down their pricing.
Monthly and yearly costs
Many hosting providers offer promotional fees which upon renewal double or triple in price. This is clever, but it can lead to unpleasant surprises in case you didn’t pay attention.
WP Engine doesn’t pull these kinds of tricks. They offer clear and transparent monthly and yearly fees. Being able to pay monthly is pretty unique when it comes to hosting – you usually pay one year in advance. With their monthly contract you can cancel whenever you please, instead of being tied up for the long haul.
This how the costs look like for their 3 cheapest plans:
- Startup. $30 per month, $300 per year
- Growth. $115 per month, $1,150 per year
- Scale. $290 per month, $2,900 per year
So basically, if you choose their yearly plan, you’ll get two months for free.
Extra costs when crossing your visitor cap
Some hosting providers claim their plans can handle an “unlimited” number of monthly visitors, or don’t address the issue. But “unlimited” within web hosting doesn’t exist. How these hosting companies operate is that they’ll temporarily cut you off from their service once you experience a big visitor spike.
WP Engine is luckily very clear with regards to visitor numbers and how much their plans can handle. And if you surpass your plan’s visitor cap, you won’t get cut off from their service. But you do end up paying for it.
With their starter plans you’ll pay $2 per 1,000 additional visitors. So if one of your posts happens to go viral and you’ll end up with 20,000 more monthly visitors than your plan supports, you’ll end up coughing up an additional $20.
So the costs can definitely start adding up. And this cost structure might force you towards a more expensive plan sooner than you wish.
60-day money-back guarantee
A 30-day money-back guarantee is standard practice in the hosting industry. WP Engine offers double that. This shows you how confident they are about the quality of their service.
This policy combined with the possibility to cancel your plan on a monthly basis means you can try out WP Engine with little risk involved on your part.
WP Engine offers shared hosting plans and custom-made dedicated servers. We’ll be only looking at their shared hosting plans.
You might be wondering: how is it possible that WP Engine offers shared hosting for these kind of prices? Shared hosting is usually associated with cheap. After all, you’re sharing a server with others. It’s as if you’re living in a house where you’re sharing the kitchen and bathroom with roommates.
So let me dedicate a few words to shared hosting before going into WP Engine’s plans.
Shared hosting comes in many shapes and sizes. There is shared hosting where websites are stuffed in a server like sardines in a can. These type of hosting companies don’t invest too much in security and once on site experiences a spike in visitors, it can slow down all other sites on the server or even cause downtime.
A good shared hosting provider on the other hand limit the number of sites they put on a server. They ensure there’s always a bandwidth buffer in case one site receives a ton of visitors. They’re also very careful about security and ensure websites can’t infect each other by properly compartmentalizing them.
As you’d imagine, WP Engine falls firmly in the latter category. It might still be as if you’re sharing a house with roommates, but it would be a Beverly Hills-style mansion.
Websites with a commercial angle should never use cheap shared hosting. But there’s absolutely no problem using high-grade shared hosting, such as WP Engine’s.
These are WP Engine’s most popular shared plans:
- $30 per month ($300 per year)
- 1 WordPress site
- 25,000 visitors per month
- 10 GB disk space
- 50 GB bandwidth per month
- Free SSL & CDN
- $115 per month ($1,150 per month)
- 10 WordPress sites
- 100,000 visitors per month
- 20 GB disk space
- 200 GB bandwidth per month
- Free SSL & CDN
- $290 per month ($2,900 per year)
- 30 WordPress sites
- 400,000 visitors per month
- 50 GB disk space
- 500 GB bandwidth per month
- Free SSL & CDN
When it comes down to the features, the plans are pretty similar. The biggest difference lies in the number of websites and visitor numbers each plan can handle.
However, it is a bit strange that their Startup plan offers no phone support. You’d expect it would given the costs.
Are you just about to build your first WordPress website? Then a web host like WP Engine is most definitely overkill. All the bells and whistles this provider offers would go to waste on a brand-new website with little to no visitors.
If you’re new to WordPress and building websites, you’d be better off choosing SiteGround. SiteGround runs on the Google Cloud Platform as well but is a whole lot more affordable than WP Engine.
Are you an experienced WordPress user who’s looking for a premium managed WordPress provider? Then WP Engine is after all these years still a good choice: their performance is more than excellent.
I just can’t call them a great choice, given that the quality of their customer support has been sliding. I therefore recommend you check out Kinsta if you’re interested in premium WordPress hosting, which does have the incredible support you’d expect.