Now that I’m back on the WordPress bandwagon and have been using WPEngine for a bit of time now, it’s time to talk about it. As previously discussed, I opted to use a hosted WordPress solution because of my utter disdain for administering WordPress. When researching WordPress hosts, I got a few recommendations and did quite a bit of reading on the matter. The defining difference for me was that WPEngine was the only WordPress hosting company to have received an investment from Automattic (which I mistakenly referred to as WordPress’ parent company). Automattic, Inc. runs WordPress.com as well as some other services such as Gravatar. Why was that investment huge to me? Because they were basically investing in a competitor as WordPress.com offers blog hosting. WPEngine was a launch partner for their VIP support program. Automattic was just one entity that invested that helped compel me to use the service.
Investors aside, WPEngine touts themselves on their speed. You may have seen the “my Blog is 4x faster than your blog” shirts out there. The need for speed was a very important factor for me. What’s the point in having someone else manage something if it’s just going to be slow as hell? Thus far, the speed of WPEngine has definitely been there. They have their own caching layer and disallow certain plugins that are known to impede speed and/or cause bottlenecks on their end. This is a shared hosting scenario so if you’re running some poorly-written WordPress plugin that is churning through the database you could be affecting everyone else. Because it’s such a closed off environment (reads: no one has root access to a server) I feel like out of the gate performance is going to be better than running WordPress on a standard VPS like Linode or Digital Ocean. Nothing against those guys, they simply don’t monitor WordPress installs, just the servers themselves.
To circle back to having a managed WordPress install, WPEngine has made some great improvements to how WordPress functions from the blog owner’s perspective. Aside from their custom caching, WPEngine injects logic during plugin installs and upgrades. Now if you try to install something new, you get barked at with a “HEY! DID YOU PERFORM A SNAPSHOT BACKUP YET??!”. It can be somewhat annoying, but it helps make sure you have a clean backup before you fuck up your install because of some shoddy plugin developer or your own incompetence. I know it seems like I hate plugin developers but that’s only partially true. I love that there’s a community of developers, but a lot of the security issues I read about with WordPress actually stem from the plugins themselves and not the core of WordPress. You get too many cooks in the kitchen and God only knows what sort of problems can arise.
Speaking of backups, WPEngine offers daily backups in addition to the manual snapshots. In addition to the backups, you can clone your WordPress install to a staging area that lets you muck with new plugins and gives you a free pass to break everything without affecting your live blog. Get it how you like it, then you can copy it back over to replace your live site. One of my favorite features is the ability to maintain your blog’s code via
git. This workflow is more in line with how I work. Code locally, test locally, push to deploy.
My other favorite feature (well promise that is) is that WPEngine says they will handle fixing your blog if / when it gets hacked. When you make promises like this, I have to assume that you have some pretty tight security going on. Being hacked may not be impossible, but it is probably a bit less likely than usual. I’ve been attempting to keep my plugins and everything up to date, so here’s to hoping that I don’t ever have to exercise said clause.
I’ve talked a ton about what I like and what awesome features WPEngine offers, but what about the bad? I always have a gripe or two, regardless of how miniscule it may be. One issue I’ve had is that WPEngine keeps opening a ticket up and assigning it to me. The ticket basically says “feel free to get in touch with us if you have any problems”. I applauded the ticket when it happened when I first started my account but now on the 3rd time it’s happened I’m a bit annoyed. The other thing is that I did experience some slow response times / no server response the other day. They resolved themselves within a few minutes so it wasn’t that big of a deal, I didn’t even have a chance to open a ticket! Since then I’ve found the WPEngine status blog (hosted on WordPress.com incidentally) so I now know where to check in the future.
System pros and cons aside, one of the major contention points I read about with WPEngine is the price. Yeah, it’s a bit pricey compared to running your own VPS (you could run on Digital Ocean for as low as 5$ a month) but you obviously have to factor in what you’re getting for the price. I opted for their small plan and paid for a year (2 months free) so I got 12 months of managed hosting for 290$ per year or less than 25$ per month (normally 29$ per month). I can’t stress the “managed” part enough, managed hosting is EXPENSIVE in more traditional settings. Let’s take a look at Linode, their smallest plan is 20$ per month. Tack on backups, that’s another 5$ per month, so you’re already spending more. Oh wait, you want that managed as well? That’s another 100$ per server, so your managed VPS is going to cost you 125$ a month or 1,500$ per year. You can argue that their bandwidth and visitor allotments are also low, but let’s get real for a moment. You’re probably not running a blog doing 100k+ visitors a month and if you are, you are probably generating some revenue and can cover the expense.
All in all, I’m quite happy as well as satisfied with WPEngine thus far. Will I stick with them after my year is up? That I’m really unsure of. A lot of that will depend on if my blog grows enough to justify the expense for another year (especially if I have to bump up to the next plan which is 99$ a month or 990$ a year). The bigger question is whether or not I want to deal with managing a WordPress install ever again (if I had to guess, the answer will still be a big N O). But who knows, maybe I will be up for the challenge next summer. Until then, I highly recommend WPEngine for their true to life “hassle-free WordPress hosting”. As always, I emplore you to use my referral link.