WP Engine Reviewed, by a real user (me)!

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Earlier this year, I was in a situation where a security vulnerability in WP meant that I spent several days with a dead website trying to rebuild on my existing hosting before deciding to move and rebuild what I could (if you go onto my older articles you will note the lack of images!).

This wasn’t that I did and don’t love my previous hosting partner, I did and do.

Background: CloudAbove have been my hosting partners for years. They offer affordable hosting for pretty much any requirements and they are UK based, which in years gone by has been fairly important to me – it is for my clients. CloudAbove are till my hosting provider for 90%+ of my clients and I can’t fault them or the help the gave me when I had issues. It is simply, my view that sometimes a site like my own with such a long histry (founded 2008) has outgrown them to some degree.

After some looking around, I moved to WP Engine. Partly becuase I have a client who uses the platform and so I know a little about it, but also because they own Genesis Themes and the site has been using a theme from Genesis for sometime, so it is a bit of a bonus to not need to pay for that subscription whilst being a WP Engine member.

PROS – What I Like About WP Engine

There is a ton to like and dare I say love about WPE. Over the past few months I’ve become a bigger fan of it than I thought I would be, because i was fairly sceptical of it as an outside user via clients – i thought it was fairly limiting at times, but actually what i saw as limiting i now see as a feature to some degree.

  1. WP Engine is really really FAST!
    WPE has its own CDN making it super fast once activated, but it’s fast without that too. You can also opt (as with any WP install) to use your own CDN, for example if you wanted to use KEYCDN or another CDN to load specific filetypes such as videos. As a search ranking factor, this is incredibly cool, and it seems to only improve with time.
  2. It has daily AUTOMATIC BACKUPS
    Ok, if you set them up or your hosting provider does (CloudAbove does this) then you have them anyway, are amazing checkpoints. If anything screws up you are pretty much covered. Its not a promise of a fix as i’ve found out – how do you know when something screwed up to start with, but its a good start. They are also extremely quick to restore – and yes you can download them to restore else where, or indeed restore to staging areas for testing in 1 click!
  3. 1-Click from Staging to Production
    I can’t tell you how stupidly cool this is. Gone are the days of editing a database or root files to move from a testing enviroment to your production enviroment, then hoping your image directory was correct. In 1 click you can move from staging to production (and vice versa), this has to be one of the best features of WPE.
  4. Security is Paramount to WP Engine
    WPE puts security at the forefront of it’s thinking and operations. WordPress is known to have vulnerabilites (i ended up here because of that) and WPE has state of the are protections to try and protect against that, part of that is using cloudflare as DNS (if you wish) initially and secondly to scan websites constantly for vulnerabilities and lock down anything they find suspicious. This also includes preventing insecure plugins from running on websites – I previously got a bit narky about not allowing many plugins on websites, however as a full owner running a site i now see the advantage of this from a security view, that said it is also a bit of a balancing act as some amazing plugins still aren’t allowed simply because of the processes they use in my view.
  5. Free SSL for All Sites
    WP Engine offers free SSL for all websites. Again given this is part of organic search ranking factors this is a really cool thing to be offered, and makes me really happy. Its just a few clicks to install and from what I gather just updates on renewal without any interaction – again really cool.
  6. Domain Mapping and Redirects are Easy(ish)
    Once your domain is pointing at WPE it can then entirely control the domain and it’s mapping including subdomains for staging (eg test.abc.com) its all automatic – nice! Secondly redirects are really easy you just add them in with the editor if you’ve only a few or you can put them into notepad and a specific format add them to a ticket and the support team will upload them. The great news is you can use REGEX too, its not far off the normal regex format but just be a tad careful as it can get a bit trixy and the support team aren’t always on fire with this as I found out and it can take some testing – they will get the devs involved to help where needed though which is fab support. I went from a couple of hundred redirects to about 50.
  7. East File Permission Resets
    Again with 1-click you can now reset file and folder permissions with WP Engine, this was the biggest pain in my arse and I used to rely on scripts to run or support teams in hostng companies. Im happy its now just one click away.
  8. PHPMyAdmin access
    I say this is a clear advantage because i recently was informed a lot of hosting companies do not give you access to phpmyadmin. Also i should add WPE gives you the ability to add SFTP access and SSH access, both of which being secure access are pretty cool.
  9. Direct Migration from Current Hosting
    WP Engine’s migration for none broken site’s is really amazing. Simply sign up to WPE and install a plugin on your existing WP install. Then follow the on-screen setup and shortly after your install will be transferred/migrated. Its really easy and no fuss. It’s so much easier than anything i’ve used before and you don’t even need to backup your old site to use it.
  10. Simple Error Logs
    Because WPE is so security aware, they give you direct access to error logs via the user portal. It means if you’ve an issue with a plugin or anything like that you can see it instantly – no more worries about a runaway plugin or random access to your admin area. Its now easy to trouble shoot.
  11. You can GitPush to WPE
    I don’t personally use this, but you can GitPush and pull to your WP Engine space. I know the power of Git and I really like this idea. If i was doing more direct development on my site I’d be doing this. Its a great tool and advantage to WPE over other platforms.
  12. Multiple Sites in one WPE
    WPE offers you the ability to manage multiple sites in one user portal. How many sites depends on your plan obviously but its a neat feature and makes life much easier all round. Oh any by the way there isn’t an additional charge for staging / testing sites of the production / main site. You can have as many staging sites as you wish.
  13. You can have WPE operate a multi-site network!
    This is something that is really cool and I really love about WPE. You can wiuth 1-click switch your WP install to a WP-Multi-site install. Not many sites use multi-site in reality but if you do this is superb news.
  14. Its Affordable WordPress Hosting
    Its only $35(usd) pcm for a single site. Paid yearly its a little cheaper, as with if you have multiple sites. This $35 is the basic setup but gives you pretty much everything you need – and will do 95% of websites, unless you have an insane amount of storage needs (10gb of storage included).

CONS – What Makes Me Grumpy

Rather than your normal list of issues, each of these is a blurb of experience I’ve had. Pain points to consider.

  1. Its Not Always Easy but IT IS WORTH IT
    I wish there was huge note in the welcome emails that read “the process of migration is not going to be easy, setting up won’t be the easiest thing you’ve done, but the results will 100% be worth it” because it would be true. I spent days trying to figure out how to make WP engine work for this website (im still not 100% sure it does fully) and making the site faster and faster. But out the other end, it is definately worth it – don’t forget there is light at the end of the tunnel.
  2. WP Engine don’t do DNS!
    WPE don’t mess with DNS, which is fine they just ask you to point your domain at their service but sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t and it gets more complicated as you want to add more security. I heavily suggest using CloudFlare to do dns, particularly you want to add DNSSEC for security to your domain.
  3. Bad Plugins Disallowed
    Remember I said I got grumpy about plugins that wern’t allowed? Thats because it really limited versatility of WPE, so SEO’s like me can’t do a great deal to make sites awesome – but also perhaps photographers can’t do certain things with certain gallery plugins or article plugins and actually it does a fair bit to limit sites. I get it in some cases and other sites I really don’t. You can see the full list of disallowed plugins on WPE here (and the reasons why they and others like are banned).

My Review of WP Engine

Overall, I’ve grown to love WP Engine as an affordable hosting solution for my website and whilst it’s not for everyone – I would recommend it for those with a growing WordPress website pressence, certainly if you’ve a fairly large traffic presence or you consider yourself to have a vulnerability issue.

WP Engine offers enterprise level speed without a huge cost each month, at only $35 for a single site, tailing down for more sites and if you buy yearly, it is fairly affordable. I know its not affordable for everyone but thats where suppliers such as CloudAbove come into play offering services such as self-hosting WP.

Personally I will be sticking with WPE for the foreseeable, I can’t fault the level of service I recieve in hosting or customer service. Its a little ticky to get used to intially and a learning curve if you aren’t technically minded, but it is well worth it.