Many WordPress hosts out there are pretty much the same with small differentiators like more email addresses or access to a specific software like a control panel, however, WP Engine is not only nothing like those other hosters, but it's also one of the world largest in it's area of specialization – Hosting WordPress Websites.
Here's a video that gives you a quick explainer about the company. It doesn't show too much, but it is fairly recent (2 months) and it gives you a quick overview about the service.
What makes them so different? For one, it's WordPress only. There is no Joomla, Drupal or any other Content Management System, nor do they have shared, dedicated services, just solutions geared towards your WordPress empire. Additionally, it's a proper startup and nothing like the web hosts that you would be familiar with. Infact, here's the most recent investment they received in January:
The estimated value of the company alone is a ballpark $444 million (After Investment) and the company intends on using this capital infusion on growing internationally and improving upon their Digital Experience Platform. The company states they have 75,000 customers and sales increased by 30% in 2017 and has a lot more room to grow.
The company, in fact, says that its platform powers around five percent of all internet visits. WordPress itself, WP Engine says, accounts for 29 percent of the entire Internet today, versus 13 percent in 2010.
There are a lot of hosts out there that are quite knowledgable with WordPress, so why WPEngine? I had the same exact thought, but then again, none of those other hosts hunkered down and just did one thing. WP Engine did and they are successful at it. Even the videos they create make it sound like they know their stuff.
What makes them Unique?
Obviously specializing in WordPress is fairly unique, but it's also not uncommon as many hosts will have sections of services that cater towards WordPress hosting. I am going to need more than just that to say “hey, these guys are different”. There's a couple of things I have found that I would consider rare or valuable that make WP Engine more unique than others.
- Transferrable Installs – This is more agency/webmaster focused that allows them to create websites for their clients on their own WP Engine account and when staging (this is a sandbox or practice environment) is ready they can then, with a single click, transfer the full site to the client's account and again, it's just a single click to get it going. For more information, you can find everything you need to know here.
- Environments – There is a collaboration element to this tool and it's most beneficial to those that operate more than one site AND also have multiple people logging into your WordPress environments. You might have this if you hire out-sourced help from places like UpWork or Freelancer like content writers or web/graphic designers that are editing your site(s).
- This solution allows you to set stages/phases of the project where your development is at by letting you edit the name of each stage. It also gives you the ability to group up your installs in order to keep everything organized. For example, you have some sites dedicated to technology-based traffic, so you group them up and maybe you have some sites that are still in testing phase, so you create another group and so on.
- Backups (Staging) – WordPress by default offers a backup feature, so what's so special and why is this even listed here? Well, yes, in short, WordPress does allow you to zip up your files to keep for any such occurrence where you may need to restore the website, however, in this case, WP Engine offers the ability to backup your staging (test website) as well. The cool part is they also added a changelog which means it will help you know who created which backup points and when they were done. It also helps you to know which backup point you need to restore.
How do Customers Rate WP Engine?
We can talk about WordPress and how WP Engine is so great at what they do, but if the service is not up to snuff, why bother? The first thing to do is check out what reviews are left by actual people using the platform.
As far as my research can suggest, there isn't anything really bad to say about this company as their selling point is that they specialize in WordPress hosting and their support staff are all experts that know how to fix problems and are able to quickly identify issues when you speak to them. There are countless reviews left by current and a few former customers that just rave about the service and I mean why not? You have a WordPress website, it's doing business for you and you are making money, so what more could you ask for?
Here are some examples of the positive reviews:
I've covered a lot of hosting companies, compared services from all over the world, top to bottom and I have to say, I've really never come across reviews like these before and the shear number of them as well. Am I saying they are perfect? No. There are complaints and they really have to do with one thing and that's price. Once in a while you might see a complaint about technical support being a bit know-it-all (arrogant), however, these complaints are few and far between, whereas price seems to be part of every other bad review.
Here are some of the complaints that I have come across:
Their plans are on the high side, but it's not the price I am referring to. As you can see from some of the reviews, they charge based on traffic, so many customers have found email in their inbox stating they owe additional amounts of money on top of what they have already paid for. For the most part, from what I can tell, WP Engine does do WordPress well; very well. The part I don't like is that they nickel and dime you for everything else.
These negative reviews were difficult to find though, so I don't think that this is a common complaint, but a negative aspect of the overall business model.
Before I get to packages and pricing, I believe it is necessary to go over what they actually have to offer and what makes them better or worse than their competitors. WP Engine has created a platform that makes your WordPress experience a memorable one and it is made to handle intense requirements as the whole intention is to offer higher grade, enterprise level services built on an ecosystem of partners and developers.
They have built this platform in an open-sourced fashion utilizing over 30 different open-sourced technologies. It's not the platform itself that provides value, but the environment around it where you will have access to some of the most powerful tools for WordPress. The great and most handy part of this is that WP Engine is involved in the development and integration of these third party software technologies, which makes it easier to support and thus, will not be required to rely on a community to fix any bugs or issues that may arise. WP Engine can go and update/fix it themselves.
According to WP Engine, the platform offers a suite of agility, performance, intelligence, and integration solutions, so you can build and deploy a range of online experiences from campaign sites to content hubs to eCommerce extensions. The way they do this is by controlling the environment that your wordpress site sits in and offers you a range of plugins to use that will cover most of your needs.
The most annoying part is because of security reasons, you may not be able to install a plugin that hasn't been pre-approved. WordPress is open-sourced, so by adding a third party plugin, not controlled by WP Engine, there is a possibility of a security breach.
Packages and Plans
I'm happy to say that when reviewing the plans, the navigation and number of plans are not overwhelming, however the price is. There are 4 packages all together and the 4th one is completely custom because if you are supporting many websites as an affiliate, you will most likely have needs that go beyond cookie cutter packages.
The price starts at $35/month which is a lot when you compare to other hosters out there, but like I said earlier in this article, people say, you get what you pay for. This Startup package only allows on site with 3 internal environments for dev and testing. I think, to a certain extent that everything listed aside from maybe bandwidth is as good or better than anything that I have seen. You're basically getting free migration (if you are coming over from another company), CDN which speeds up your website (better conversions), SSL to protect your website and a wide variety of tools that are valuable to anyone running WordPress.
There is a huge jump to $115/month for the second plan and $290/month for the third plans and the only major difference is the number of sites you can host, plus a bit more bandwidth, which I don't think weighs into the equation because if you look closely at each package, you will notice that they set a limit on your traffic. I honestly can't remember the last time I hosted with a company that charged based on the amount of traffic I received? instead of me explaining how they charge, here's a screenshot of how they explain it to their customers:
Ok, so here is where most of the complaints are directed towards. It's something expected and unexpected at the same time. Customers know that they will have to pay overages, but when it comes, they don't like it. That's the feeling I get from reading reviews about price.
A single dollar for a 1000 unique visits does sound so bad, especially if you have a conversion rate of 2-3%. It should pay off, depending on what you're selling, but if you're not earning more than $1 on a single sale, I think it's high-time you go back to the drawing board!
Here's a typical quote from a customer blindsided by hidden WP Engine charges:
Last time when I logged into my WPEngine dashboard, I was surprised to see an extra $188 bill for overage visits
With the money you spend at WP Engine, you could get your own dedicated server and not pay any overages, but that would mean you need to manage the server, wordpress and anything that goes into maintaining the computer.
Cost aside, WP Engine is a service that is very popular and it's something that people need – Most people anyway.
Best Fit for WP Engine
The ideal customer that would best fit the mold of WP Engine and their services would be those with 1-15 websites that have moderate traffic and are done with managing all these sites. It takes a lot of time to make sure everything on your WP environment is updated and working right. Maybe you go away for a while, get busy and don't pay attention to your site only to find it hacked by the time you actually do have time to manage it.
The bottom line is that WP Engine = hands-off management of your WordPress websites which is a good thing, especially when you just don't have time to manage all your installs. Coming from personal experience, It's really time consuming. You could say that WP Engine gives you more time to run your business instead of wasting time running your website. Also consider:
- WP Engine makes management of your WordPress sites easier with a hands-off approach
- If you have high traffic websites, use another WordPress host in a VPS or Dedicated server solution that doesn't charge for traffic overage (hits/uniques).
- Great for any website with 1-300,000 uniques per month. (number of visitors)
- Automatic backup included with every package
- The $35 plan does not come with 24/7 support.
Lastly, IF you are that very rare individual that is super successful and has dozens and dozens of websites, my advice to you is to either outsource management through one of the freelancer websites and purchase multiple VPS or Dedicated servers to run your environment OR speak to WP Engine for a custom package. The one thing is to make sure you negotiate the traffic costs as low as possible as that will be the one thing that can be a burden. Then again, what is the price of convenience?