Disclaimer: I have not been paid or asked to write this post by WP Engine or anyone associated with them, but several of the links contained in this post are affiliate links. Thank you.
I first got involved with the WordPress community about 6 or 7 years ago when I started a little gaming blog on WordPress.com. That blog quickly gained popularity in that community and pretty soon we were wanting to do things that WP.com just wouldn’t let us do. I wanted more design control as well as the ability to see if we could generate any kind of decent revenue. Over the next few years the site continued to grow and we bounced around quite a bit in terms of hosting. Our first move was to GoDaddy and that was an experience. We settled in on a shared hosting plan and set up with their webmail and we were off. As the site got more popular we gradually moved up to a VPS. Eventually though, I just got feed up with the lack of quality support we were getting and I hired the guys at WebsiteMovers (WSM) to migrate our site to a new host called InMotionHosting. I had done a lot of research and these guys seemed to be very good and for a while they were. We started on one of their VPS plans and eventually we needed a dedicated physical server to handle all the traffic we were generating. Life was good. And then problems started happening.
We got hacked and that was so bad that I almost considered shutting the site down because I didn’t know if I had what it took to bring us back from that. But I did and we moved on. The site kept growing and performance was good, revenue was good, meaning we were basically breaking even on the server cost. That was great to us because when I started the site I footed the monthly bill out of my pocket. In late 2011 and early 2012 the site was at its peak, it seemed like we had finally made it and then something happened. The site started going down all the time, as soon as we would get a decent number of concurrent users on the site it would go down. I’d find myself hoping onto the server and restarting Apache and such. It got to be rather frustrating. I asked for help from my host at the time but they weren’t really that helpful. The stability issues continued and it got to a point that we decided it was time to make another move and I started researching again.
As a was looking around, I came across a niche of hosting that didn’t exist in a mainstream way that last time I had looked at moving the site. This niche hosting focused only on hosting WordPress sites. There were a few players in the space, but I focused in on a company called WP Engine (WPE). It was a novel concept to me, but I figured at the very least that meant any support people I talked to would know the platform, have used it and be able to really be helpful when I needed support or advice. From a cost perspective, it was no different from what we were paying for our dedicated server at our old host so that was no issue. I thought about the cost of moving the site again which wasn’t cheap and I wasn’t looking forward to that, but then the WPE folks told me that they would get my friends at WSM to handle that for me at no cost to me. At that point I was intrigued but not convinced. I looked for reviews of WPE on the net, Twitter and pretty much anywhere I could find. The new accounts guy I was working with was great, he gave me tons of information but he wasn’t pushy. After another outage and then lack of adequate support I was done. I called up Sergio and told him we were ready. He hooked us up with the WSM mover guys who completely coordinated the site move and in a few days ZoKnowsGaming was at its new home on WPE.
After getting to WPE, while doing some clean up on the site post move I came across a serious of folders that I didn’t recognize, with data that I didn’t recognize. I reported it to the WPE folks, they assessed that I had been compromised previously, called in the folks from Sucuri to do an assessment and then cleared everything up for me while putting in some additional security tweaks for me. The whole process was quick and I really didn’t have to do anything. It was at that point that I realized the true value of a host like WPE. I had gotten so used to having to check CPU usage and monitor services that I forgot that those things really shouldn’t be my job. My job is to run my website and generate great content. Since moving to WPE several months ago, its the best hosting decision I’ve ever made. You really feel like these guys have your back.
They give you the capability to do things that once you have you will never understand how you ran a website without them. On WPE, when you go to update a plugin for instance, when you click update, it ask you have you created a back and if not it lets you jump right to the backup screen from there. In a minute or so you get an email saying its done and you know that no matter how the update goes, you can roll back to how your site was previously in minutes. Now I backup before I do anything and I’m never afraid I’m going to break my site and be down for hours. Did I mention they back your site up daily automatically, which most places do as well, but not all of them have the ability to then use that backup to restore your site to full working condition and that’s a key differentiator.
If you are like me, you get to a point where you want to do a major redesign of your site but you don’t want to tweak your live site and you don’t have a development site. With WPE, that’s where the Staging site comes into play. At any time, you can click a button and create a full copy of your live site and put that in the staging area. From there you can pop over to your staging site that looks and for the most part behaves like your live site (ads and such tied to your domain may not work). You log in with your normal credentials and you got to work. You can test out plugins that you aren’t quite sure about, new themes, new tweaks to .htaccess and anything else you might want to try. The staging site gives you the power to be fearless in pushing your WordPress site forward. The only deficiency that the staging area really had was that you could do all these changes and get things how you wanted but you still had to go back to your live site and implement them. That is all a thing of the past now as you can now make your staging site your live site to make taking your site redesign live a breeze. To top that off there are multiple options for what you take live from staging and to top it all off if it all goes bad even after you tested it, you can just revert back to the old version of your site. The bottom line is that WPE allows you to really be fearless in your site development and confident that if it goes a little awry you’ve got great support.
Did I mention how great these guys allow your site to scale? Unlike a lot of host, they won’t take your site down because you got a burst of traffic. Their system allows your site to stay up when you post that great story that goes viral and you don’t have to be afraid about your site becoming unavailable. I could explain about how or why though do this but they explain it way better than I ever could on their site.
The bottom line is that if you have a WordPress site that you are really serious about taking to the next level then you owe these guys a long hard look. On the cost front these guys aren’t cheap but they aren’t unreasonable, especially for the quality that you get. Their basic plan starts at $29/month up to 100,000 visits and you can get two months two months free, so its $290 for whole first year.
They calculate visits and such a little different than you might expect so I encourage you to read their site and ask questions to make sure you have a clear understanding. They also restrict some plugins for performance/stability reasons so make sure you check those out as well before making the jump. With all that said though, if you have a WordPress Site that you are truly serious about, WP Engine is in my opinion by far the best value for the money. If anyone has questions about WP Engine and our experience with them please feel free to ask in the comments and we’ll be happy to answer them.