WP Engine Review

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Paul Mahony

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2019 October 10th

WP Engine is a specialized WordPress hosting provider, claiming to offer agile and intelligent server solutions for businesses. Partnering with Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud platform, it aims to ensure enterprise-grade managed hosting for any WordPress site.

And enterprises trust this provider: the impressive client list includes names such as Microsoft, National Geographic, and SoundCloud. But how good WP Engine really is - and is it a right WordPress hosting option for you?

I've decided to test it by myself.

What is WP Engine?

WPEngine-review-homepage

WP Engine focuses on innovative technological solutions and top-level customer service. Meant for developers and business users, this platform aims to boost the already powerful WordPress CMS to its limits.

It's a fully managed host. And this not only means you won't have to manually set up and optimize WordPress. On top of that, various performance and management tools are available. Overall, it should result in a better user and developer experience.

And if any problems come up, there's a dedicated WordPress expert team ready to help you.

WP Engine is not merely a host, it's a digital experience platform that is claiming to help thousands of users succeed online using WordPress platform. So let's have a look at the features this platform offers.

A Solid List Of WordPress Features

These are the key WordPress features that WP Engine has to offer:

  • Server choice and GeoTarget service
  • Developing, staging, and production environments
  • Enhanced security features
  • Genesis framework powered templates

What are those features good for? Let's have a look at them one by one.

Server locations and GeoTarget service

WPEngine-review-server-locationWP Engine allows you to choose the needed servers and their location to deliver the best experience for your audiences across the globe.

Google servers include locations all over the United States, Europe, and Asia. AWS servers cover Canada, most of the US, Europe, and Asia locations.

Sounds good - but why would anyone need servers all across the world, anyway?

The answer is simple. The closer the server is to the visitor, the faster your website can load. This not only means increased user experience, but also is a ranking factor for Google and other search engines. According to Google, a fast website is a good thing - so it's important to make yours so..

But there's something more interesting than the server location choice.

WPEngine-review-GeoTargetFor extra $15/month WP Engine provides you with GeoTarget service.

Based on visitor location, it automatically delivers content adapted to the location - displays local currency, geographically relevant content, or redirects the user to a localized website.

The feature is extremely relevant for eCommerce focusing on a few different locales.

Dev, Stage, Prod environments

For building, updating, or testing your site, WP Engine provides you with 3 environments :

  • Development;
  • Staging;
  • Production.

In the staging environment, you'll be able to clone an existing site and test out theme updates, new themes, or plugins. It's a relaxed way to test out new things - it won't accidentally break your original site and keeps it working fully, while you install changes.

The development environment is best for introducing new changes in website development. By using WP Engine development environment you can check whether all changes work properly before applying them to the original site. And finally, there's a production environment, where the finished and tested product goes live.

This way, a three-stage secure workflow is created and all changes can be tested and applied only when testing sites are functioning flawlessly.

WP Engine security features

WP Engine guarantees website security by performing automated backups daily. This way, you ensure the copy of a perfectly functioning website exists in case you run into a problem.

Also, WP Engine employs an in-house team of security engineers. They make sure there are no security flaws by reviewing codes and performing audits on all internal environments.

Traffic is encrypted with SSL certificates and websites are being scanned for threats automatically. WP Engine also manages core updates and patches. Before recommending them, WP Engine thoroughly vets all major updates.

To ensure safety on your side, you can add a two-factor identification so there's an even smaller chance of someone hacking into your account.

And should something happen, the support team will help you perform a disaster recovery so the website can function without losses.

But if you want to ensure top-notch security and included features don't seem to be enough, you can get an additional package for $30/month. It will get you DDoS protection, a web application firewall (WAF), SSL/TLS at the network edge, and Cloudflare CDN.

User-friendly Genesis framework templates

All WP Engine users are provided with lightweight and SEO optimized Genesis framework to build their website on. It includes 35+ premium themes designed for WordPress sites.

WPEngine-review-Genesis-themes

All of the themes are built on HTML5 and are mobile optimized as well. Genesis follows the best WordPress security practices and also includes automatic updates to keep your site up-to-date.

For my test site, I've chosen the Agency Pro theme. It's easily customizable through Genesis theme settings and includes a number of color scheme and layout options. But before you can use the themes, you'll need to install both Genesis and your chosen theme. 

WPEngine-review-Genesis-customization

As for the template itself, it does take quite a bit of tweaking, to make your website look unique. Fortunately, all of the customizations are easily manageable with the WordPress live-preview option.

WP Engine Performance

WP Engine guarantees 99.95% uptime meaning, your website shouldn't go down more than 43s in a day and 4 hours and 22 minutes per year. That's the result most of the host should seek.

So I've performed a test of my own, to check both the uptime and the server response times.

And since the time I have registered my site with WP Engine, the website uptime was a perfect 100%. Response times were quite consistent as well, averaging at 322.94ms.

wp-engine-uptime-with-cdn

During the period of testing, Global CDN (Content Delivery Network), was on.  It works by creating a network of servers around the globe and delivers the static content from the closest server to the request location.

In the best case scenario, CDN will ensure you have 100% uptime switching from one server to another, should one suddenly stop functioning. And, by the looks of it, the CDN works really well.

But there's more.

CDN is meant to deliver static content, such as photos, CSS, or JavaScript much faster to the website visitors worldwide. So, I've decided to test that, too.

With the CDN turned off average page load time was around 0.5 seconds. Which is not bad but could be a bit better for a lightweight page.

After turning CDN on I got varying results. At times, it did make a page load faster with 372ms. But I also got results of 0.8s a few times.

WPEngine-review-load-times-CDN-on

So overall, there's not enough proof to call WP Engine's CDN a certain way to reduce your website's load time. And it makes sense - with an already low load time, there's only so much a CDN can do.

At last, it was time for a final test. A load test from the US and abroad.

I measured response times with 50 virtual users testing from the US location. Both with CDN on and off, the server showed excellent performance. Response times did not change even when traffic was higher and remained at around 25ms.

WPEngine-review-response-time-CDN-on-USA

The same thing happened when a similar test with 50 virtual visitors was conducted from Seoul. And while response times there were lagging behind when compared to the US, they remained consistent throughout the test and averaged at around 200ms.

WPEngine-review-response-times-load-test-CDN-on-Seoul

So, overall - WP Engine servers deliver stable performance and flawless uptime all around the world. We have discovered no significant flaws.

WP Engine Pricing

WP Engine plans start at $35/month for the Startup plan and reach $290/month with the Scale plan. But if you own a huge online business requiring extra resources, you'll be able to negotiate the most fitting deal for you with the Custom plan

WPEngine review: pricing options

All of the plans include SSL security, Global CDN boosters, 36 premium themes, and 24/7 chat support.

However, WP Engine Startup plan for $35/month, as the name indicates, is best for those just getting their feet into online businesses. It provides you with 1 site, 10GB storage, 50GB bandwidth/month, and limits monthly visits to 25,000. That is the plan I'm testing out.

If you're not new to website development and own a larger project (or multiple!), go for the Growth plan for $115/month or the Scale plan for $290/month. You'll get more storage, bandwidth, and monthly visits allowance.

Also, you'll be able to create multiple sites and use imported SSL certificates. 24/7 phone support is another added feature to solve any issues speedily.

And in case you exceed the monthly visitors limit, WP Engine will charge you $2 for every 1,000 additional visits.

But like with most of the hosts, there's a catch.

WPEngine-review-upsells

WP Engine has quite a few upsells. And while features like GeoTarget are not essential for a lot of businesses, I would definitely want protection against DDoS attacks to be included.

Unfortunately, domain names are not included as well. You cannot buy them directly from WP Engine, so you'll need to find a domain name registrar and purchase them elsewhere.

On a more positive note, WP Engine is one of a few providers to offer transparent pricing. It remains the same even after the renewal.  Even better, you can save some cash by ordering a yearly plan - two months will be covered by WP Engine.

You can check out the table down below to compare WP Engine plans:

Startup Growth Scale Custom
Disk Space 10 GB 20 GB 30 GB 100 GB - 1 TB
Bandwidth 50 GB 200 GB 400 GB 400 GB - 5 TB+
Monthly visits 25 000 100 000 400 000 Millions
Domains allowed 1 5 15 25
SSL Included Included + Imported Included + Imported Included + Imported
Email accounts Yes Yes Yes Yes
Customer support 24/7 Live chat 24/7 Live chat, 24/7 Phone 24/7 Live chat, 24/7 Phone 24/7 Live chat, 24/7 Phone
Free automated back-ups Yes Yes Yes Yes
GeoTarget Extra Extra Extra Included

All users can purchase extra features. Content Performance feature costs $25/month, GeoTarget is $15/month, Global Edge Security costs $30/month, and WordPress Multisite is $20/month.

Customer Support Is Good, Could Do Some Improvements

WP Engine promises to deliver award-winning support for all of its clients. And my experience with the support team began even before purchasing a hosting plan. Somehow, my credit card was declined although the funds were sufficient. So I tried the live chat.

The sales support agent was not able to help me but recommended I contact the Billing team via email tickets. And while it took a few hours to get everything sorted out, eventually everything was fine.

Once my website was up and running, something felt off. So I've decided to bother the customer support just a little bit more.

Waiting time was non-existent. Although I was 6th in the queue, it took them around a minute or so to reply.

The agent was professional and answered all of my questions. Also, he performed a test on my website and suggested a solution to make my website load faster.

Overall, the WP Engine customer support experience was pretty good. And, if you had more serious issues, I can see that the support is professional, fast, and skilled to help.

WP Engine Review - the Verdict

WP Engine delivers what it promises. The performance of the servers is flawless. The service is easy to use, and there are plenty of features WordPress developers will absolutely love. Overall, it's a very good hosting experience.

But there's always some place for improvement.

If all customer support departments were available 24/7,  the purchasing process would be much more convenient. And the entry plan costs $35/month plus $2 for an additional 1,000 visitors. This makes WP Engine a less desirable option for users that only have one active website.

All in all, though, WP Engine is a good managed WordPress hosting option. If you're an advanced user looking for a powerful platform, this is the way to go.

Pros

  • Powerful CDN
  • Great performance
  • Easy to set up

Cons

  • The live chat doesn't solve all inquiries immediately
  • Plans expensive for one website users

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