WP Engine Review: Pros & Cons of WP Engine WordPress Hosting

WP Engine is one of the first web hosting companies to provide managed WordPress hosting services. It’s a really good company with good services and good products. But it’s not for everyone, and making the switch to managed hosting is not an easy job. They customize your WordPress install so that it’s super fast, secure, and optimized to take care of any traffic spike or performance issues.

WP Engine Features

WP Engine was founded on the world’s leading content management system – WordPress. And since 30% of all sites on the internet are now powered by WordPress, there is a huge demand for this CMS to be customized to meet various business needs. WP Engine has come forward to deliver these users amazing digital experiences by providing optimized managed WordPress hosting.

Access to StudioPress Themes

screenshot of StudioPress themes available with wp engine hosting

StudioPress, one of the leading WordPress theme creators, has joined the WP Engine family recently. With Genesis Framework and StudioPress themes, WP Engine users will now be able to easily create clean, professional, SEO friendly websites without having to look for a third-party WordPress theme. As long as you are on a WP Engine hosting plan you will have access to all the StudioPress themes for free.

My Experience at WP Engine

I signed up for their Professional plan back in 2013 to serve as the primary host of several projects – such as my WordPress tutorial site for DIY-ers, my recipe site, and eventually this site (currently running at Bluehost).

Although I left WP Engine a couple weeks ago, I left a very cordial note to let them know that I plan on returning one day. They just weren’t the right fit for me and my business at that moment. However, they are a great fit (and a must) for many people running WordPress for their websites.

Here are the pros and cons of WP Engine from my experience.

Pros of WP Engine

WP Engine does pretty much what they say on their homepage – “We’re on a mission to help customers win online”.

Great Speed & Performance

I did a comparison of this website and other sites that I’m currently running on shared hosting with WP Super Cache, HTTP Compression, and optimized images. There is nothing really special from a developer’s perspective. But I did notice that I score faster than 92% of all websites at Pingdom.

Here’s the thing though – with WP Engine my score can go up to 98/100 – without me having to fiddle with caching plugins, or do anything. It’s quite amazing. Everything is cached in ways that I didn’t know were possible. Wait time (which is a big issue with almost every web hosting) was non-existent. Even unoptimized WordPress sites show great performance on WP Engine because their platform does the extra work. Here’s the performance test of one of my clients’ website running on WP Engine.

screenshot showing speed and performance test result of a website running on wp engine managed wordpress hosting

First Byte and Start Render measure how quickly the web server returned enough data to start loading the page. This shows the kind of performance WP Engine can provide even on an unoptimized website.

Great Support

WP Engine is known for offering great support. Here’s a screenshot from one of my first contact with their support,

screenshot showing the response time of wp engine support

Look at the response time. And this request wasn’t an anomaly. They are really ninja fast on support. And they actually know what they are talking about.

Everyone on their support crew knew all sorts of crazy geeky facts about not only hosting but also WordPress in general. And they bore with me and worked really hard to try to figure out my particularly frustrating setup (coming in the cons).

Value Hosting

WP Engine is not cheap. Their plan starts at $35/month and I was on their $115 plan.

screenshot of wp engine managed wordpress hosting plans

That’s pretty pricey – but only if you are comparing it with Shared hosting plans – which is like comparing an ATV with a Formula 1 car – yeah, they are both four-wheeled vehicles, but they are totally different things.

When you break down all the components that you get with WP Engine – it’s quite cheap (and that’s before you start counting in your time if you are having to deal with server problems).

Shared hosting just cannot handle tons of traffic or heavy-duty WordPress websites – so you instantly need to compare WP Engine with VPS Hosting, at least.

Even there – with WP Engine you get built-in security (rather than paying for a premium plugin), daily off-site backups and restore points (rather than paying for a premium backup plugin + storage), free SSL, free CDN with great speed and support.

Plus, multisite counts as 1 install and with the Growth plan, you get 5 sites. So it’s pretty easy to defray the cost of hosting per site.

Premium Themes

With WP Engine you get access to all the StudioPress Themes and Genesis Framework for free. That’s over $2,000 in value when you sign up for a WP Engine plan.

Cons of WP Engine

Despite those pros, I ended up leaving WP Engine. Now I have started managing my own speed, security, and hosting.

Complexity

In order to achieve this great speed, security, and scalability – WP Engine does things differently. And that can be quite complicated if hosting environments are not your wheelhouse.

I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with cPanel (the backend for most web hosts). But WP Engine was completely different. And the problem was that I was attempting to build 2 new sites (a multisite and a membership site) on their new infrastructure. WP Engine has a pretty steep learning curve.

I knew how to build the sites but kept having tons of conflicts with their infrastructure. Which is why they have to have the best support and you are going to need it.

It might have been fine and all well worth it except for the fact that I just needed my new sites to work like how I set them up. I got the multisite working eventually. But it took way too long for something that was a side project.

It was the membership site that made me leave.

I always set up my site with s2Member. And for some reason, their support could not figure out (despite tons of obvious work on it) why PayPal, s2Member and their caching structure weren’t playing nice.

After a lot of back and forth, I had to leave because I needed it to just work, even at the cost of speed.

In hindsight, I should not have launched a brand new project with WP Engine without first having a familiarity with their backend. I should have moved this site over first, played around with their backend, and gotten past the learning curve. The problem was that I just didn’t have the time to work it out.

So for me, the fact that it was a bit more complicated than it’s sold was a big con against WP Engine at that moment.

Now if you have an established site that you can test with on their site (or a non-complicated setup to start with) they would be a great fit. But it’s still going to be more complicated than you’d expect.

Unique Setup

This con is very much related to #1 and also sort of a pro. Basically, you give up a lot of controls and customization to get things to work just right (pretty much the story of all hardware and software). You can’t just run any plugin you want on your site (which, again, is probably a good thing). Though it is a nuisance when you already have your site set up in a particular way.

Even little things like mapping your domain aren’t difficult in the end. But they are different and unique enough to make it all a bit annoying.

WP Engine’s unique setup is what led to the conflict with s2Member. And this is why I eventually had to leave. It’s great overall because of what the setup they can provide. But you may have to conform to their guidelines to make things work on your site.

The process might be a bit of a pain, but after all, you will have the fastest, most secure, worry-free website ever. It requires lots of work upfront with obvious long-term reward.

Conclusion

If you are spending too much time managing your hosting such as whether your site got hacked or it’s is slow then WP Engine is a no-brainer – go sign up. And if you have a more complicated site (multisite, e-commerce, membership) the switch probably will pay off. But take some time to learn their setup, and contact their sales team to see if your setup will have any issues. Also feel free to ask how you can make the transition smoother.

Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links. If you follow one of those affiliate links and purchase something it will provide me with a little bit of a commission. This costs you nothing extra but helps maintain my site, free plugins, and themes. So I thank you for your support.

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