WP Engine Review: Expensive WordPress Hosting – Is It Worth The Cost?

If you are looking for something to power your blog and you do not consider the WordPress platform, you would be in the minority.

WordPress offers a lot to bloggers, and if you find yourself taking advantage of this powerful platform, you will want to make sure you find the best hosting option you can afford.

WP Engine offers managed web hosting plans that cater only to users who have built their websites and blogs using WordPress. Is WP Engine a host you should consider? In this article, we will take a closer look at WP Engine to help you decide.

WP Engine Specializes in One Thing: Managed WordPress Hosting

Founded in 2010, WP Engine is a managed hosting provider catering to users who have built their websites and blogs using WordPress. Not using WordPress? WP Engine is not for you.

Unlike regular shared hosting plans, managed WordPress hosting takes care of the technical details involved — like plugin management and website performance — so that bloggers don’t have to worry about them.

While you can find other companies that offer similar managed hosting services, WP Engine stands out from its competitors with its tighter-that-usual focus on the needs of WordPress users, like bloggers. More specifically, managed WordPress hosting, like WP Engine offers, specializes in handling all the complex nuances of this powerful blogging platform. They also excel at optimizing caching, security, and support.

As you read through this article, you will notice that WP Engine focuses on providing the best possible service for your website or blog, eschewing extras that other web hosts typically bundle with their hosting plans (e.g., email, free domain names).

WP Engine's Page Performance Metrics
Example of WP Engine’s Page Performance Metrics (Source: WPEngine)

Focused on Website Performance

One of WP Engine’s biggest selling points over more traditional shared hosting options is its focus on optimizing the performance of sites and blogs built using WordPress.

WP Engine’s “Performance Intelligence” solution offers you real-time data about how your site is doing and, more importantly, what you can do to make it run faster. Finally, you can review your analytics again to make sure the tweaks you are making are effective.

Our Response Time Tests

We ran a Pingdom report on WP Engine in comparison with three other top hosting companies. The charts below show site response time for the period November 2017 – 2018. WP Engine beats two of our top hosts, Bluehost and HostGator, throughout the entire time period with an average page load time of 338 ms.

Page Load Times in Milliseconds - Previous 12 Months
Our tests show that WP Engine Outperformed BlueHost and HostGator in Server Response Time (Source: Pingdom)

 

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What Do You Get With WP Engine’s Plans?

Rather than offering its users a choice of hosting type (e.g., shared, VPS, dedicated) the way many other vendors do, WP Engine offers plans based on the needs of your website. When making your purchase, you will choose your plan based on the number of monthly visits you expect, storage space needs, and so on.

WP Engine Pricing
WP Engine’s pricing is tiered by the extent of resources your blog needs. (Source: WPEngine)

As a managed hosting provider, you simply work with WP Engine to figure out what your blog’s needs are, and the company will help you meet those needs.

When signing up for a WP Engine plan, there are three options from which you can choose. The best option for you depends on the size of your website and the amount of traffic you expect on a monthly basis.

Regardless of which plan you choose, all WP Engine plans come with

  • The Genesis Framework and 35+ StudioPress Themes to help you create a unique WordPress site with ease
  • Multiple environments (e.g., development, staging, production) so that you can create and test changes to reduce the possibility of pushing breaking changes directly to your production environment
  • Global CDN
  • Automated SSL certificates
What you get with WP Engine's Startup plan
What you get with WP Engine’s Startup plan (Source: WPEngine)

Option 1: Getting Started with Just the Basics

The entry-level option includes “all the basics for starting a small website or blog.” This plan includes:

  • Support for 25,000 visits per month
  • 10 GB of local storage
  • 50 GB of bandwidth per month
  • Support for one website or blog
What you get with WP Engine's Growth plan
What you get with WP Engine’s Growth plan (Source: WPEngine)

Option 2: Moving Right on Up

For those looking to grow their blog, the mid-range plan gets you quite a bit more than the entry-level option:

  • Support for 100,000 visits per month
  • 20 GB of local storage
  • 200 GB of bandwidth per month
  • Support for up to five websites or blogs

You will also get support for SSL certificates you import.

What you get with WP Engine's Scale plan
What you get with WP Engine’s Scale plan (Source: WPEngine)

Option 3: A Solution for Resource-Intensive, Highly-Trafficked Blogs

The most expensive pre-packaged offering from WP Engine includes:

  • Support for up to 400,000 visits per month
  • 30 GB of local storage
  • 400 GB of bandwidth per month
  • Support for up to 15 websites or blogs
WP Engine can tailor a plan for you
WP Engine can tailor a plan for you (Source: WPEngine)

 

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Need Something Different? Try Custom Solutions

If you need more than what is offered by any of the plans we have already covered, WP Engine offers custom solutions geared toward “large businesses and mission-critical sites” needing a “dedicated environment [that] delivers high performance.”

A custom solution might be the best option for you if you:

  • Expect millions of visits per month
  • Need between 100 GB – 1 TB of local storage
  • Need 400 GB (or more) or bandwidth per month
  • Support up to 25 websites of blogs

Custom solutions also come with professional services like customized onboarding and launch readiness assessments.

WP Engine offers free premium Studiopress themes
WP Engine offers free premium Studiopress themes. (Source: WPEngine)

Frameworks, Plugins, and Free Premium Themes

One of the biggest perks that all WP Engine customers get is access to StudioPress’ Genesis Framework, on which you can build powerful, unique themes for your blog. All hosting plans come with the framework itself, as well as over 35 StudioPress themes (which is valued at over $2000).

Other than that, WP Engine doesn’t offer any additional free themes or plugins. Rather, WP Engine has a list of WordPress plugins that they expressly forbid their users from installing. However, we do not want to leave the wrong impression on you — for example, WP Engine handles caching for you, which is why some of the most popular caching plugins are banned.

WP Engine uses object caching instead of allowing caching plugins
WP Engine uses object caching instead of allowing caching plugins (Source: WPEngine)

Protection From Security Threats

As your website or blog grows larger and larger, you are likely to garner attention from malicious parties at the same time that it becomes more and more inconvenient for your site to go down. To protect you (and your website), WP Engine has instituted a number of measures designed to protect you from malicious attacks. These include:

  • Limitations on who can write to your file system, as well as detailed logs anytime anything (or anyone) writes to your file system
  • Automated search and disabling of malicious plugins
  • Dedicated/isolated environments for premium customers
  • Logically separated, encrypted backups in the event that something does happen to your data
  • Routine scanning for vulnerabilities and immediate handling of identified threats

If you are in need of SSL certificates for your e-commerce projects, WP Engine offers them as part of their services.

WP Engine threat categories
WP Engine categorizes threats to your blog (Source: WPEngine)

Monetization Options and Support

If you are planning on monetizing your blog, or you have already done so and are wondering what WP Engine offers or supports in this area:

  1. Installation of the Google Adsense plugin onto your website
  2. Join an affiliate program and place the brand’s ad on your website to earn revenue from purchases resulting from click-throughs. Alternately, you could earn commissions via referrals (i.e., link to Amazon for a product you recommend in a blog post)
  3. Offer subscriptions and memberships, and use the appropriate plugins to handle the segregation of content
  4. Sell digital products, either digital or not, and use a plugin to add the necessary functionality (shopping cart, protected downloads, shipping calculators, etc.) to your website
  5. Accept sponsored posts from brands seeking to raise awareness using the reader base that you have developed
WP Engine can help your blog monetize
WP Engine can help your blog monetize (Source: WPEngine)

 

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Is Managed WordPress Hosting Really Worth Its Cost?

Generally speaking, you get what you pay for. However, whether you need what you get is a completely different story.

WP Engine does one thing well, and that is to provide an excellent hosting environment for WordPress-based sites that is backed by top-notch customer service.

What does that mean exactly?

Generally speaking, WP Engine will handle pretty much everything on the back-end. The company will handle server maintenance, ensure that everything is secured against unauthorized use or access, keep the WordPress core updated, and so on.

You, on the other hand, are required to manage and maintain the front-end — you need to create your site (or migrate over an existing option), as well as handle issues related to domain names and email.

If anything ever goes wrong, the WP Engine support team will help you troubleshoot and diagnose the issue, then provide specific recommendations.

Managed Hosting vs. Traditional Options

Managed hosting, especially from WP Engine, is more expensive than many other WordPress-friendly options, such as Bluehost. Furthermore, these hosts offer a lot of the features WP Engine offers, such as automatic maintenance of the WordPress core, as well as options WP Engine does not include, such as free website builders.

For those who are just getting started with a WordPress blog, it might be more cost-effective, and feature-rich to spring for something with a traditional host, since the entry-level plans from WP Engine do not feature richly in terms of professional services. As your site grows, you may then find it more appropriate to move to a managed host — your site will only get more and more complex over time.

WP Engine prides itself on customer support
WP Engine prides itself on customer support (Source: WPEngine)

Technical Support and Customer Service

While the WP Engine support team is available 24/7, the method(s) by which you can reach the support team varies based on the hosting plan you have chosen. For example, the entry-level plan gets you support via Live Chat, while all other hosting plan gets you support via telephone and Live Chat.

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What’s Missing?

Due to its hyper-focus on WordPress alone, WP Engine doesn’t get bogged down with providing some other elements you typically get from other hosting providers.

Domain Names Aren’t Included

Unlike many hosting providers, WP Engine doesn’t bundle a custom domain name with the purchase of a hosting package, so you will need to provide your own.

Before you can redirect your production WP Engine site to your custom domain, you will need to purchase a new domain from the registrar of your choice (if you do not already have a domain name). Once you do, you can add a domain to your site using your WP Engine User Portal.

WP Engine's online documentation can walk you through adding your domain
WP Engine’s online documentation can walk you through adding your domain (Source: WPEngine)

Custom Email Accounts Aren’t Included Either

Similar to domain names, WP Engine doesn’t bundle any type of email services with its web hosting packages.

To get email-related services set up, you will need to sign up for an email plan after you have registered a custom domain name (i.e., you might purchase a domain name from GoDaddy and enterprise email from Google).

WP Engine does, however, support the sending of emails using its platform.

WP Engine's documentation for using Mailchimp
WP Engine’s documentation for using Mailchimp (Source: WPEngine)

 

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Conclusion: Great! (If You Can Afford It)

When we first navigated to the WP Engine website, we were a bit overwhelmed (after all, what does “WordPress Digital Experience” even mean?).

Nevertheless, WP Engine offers solid hosting, though limited, hosting options for those seeking highly-specialized environments for their WordPress blogs and websites.

If you are just getting started in the blogging world, is WP Engine right for you? Maybe, maybe not. The plans are not all-inclusive (e.g., lacking in a free domain name, no site builder, no email, etc.), so you will have to add the acquisition of these items to your to-do list. In addition to these hoops and hurdles you need to jump through, WP Engine is not the cheapest option available.

With that said, as your site grows, you will find the features and offerings of WP Engine more and more appealing. In addition to managed environments designed to get your site performing as well as possible, you will get top notch security as well as access to staff members highly experienced in working with, managing, and growing WordPress sites.

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Webmaster, Juggler, Mom. Contributor to WhoIsHostingThis.com, Blogging.com and Digital.com and other sites for people who make websites.

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