I was 14 years old when I interacted with my first webhost. Since then, I’ve been a customer of a dozen of hosting companies and interacted with dozens more as a client liaison.
My approach to hosting for clients has always been to handle the entire experience so they don’t have to think about it at all. However, that means that I have to manage all aspects – security, migrations, investigating issues, and requesting support from the provider when there are issues.
My journey has gone from shared hosting to ‘webmaster’ hosting to Virtual Private Servers (VPS) to AWS EC2 to managed hosting. After this lengthy, and at times torturous, road to success, I can finally say that we’ve found our home with WP Engine.
Our WP Engine recommendation stem from 4 S’s: speed, security, support, and systems.
When a webhost provides a site speed tool on their site, you know they’re ready to be put to the test. A WordPress website’s speed is affected by a multitude of factors – the hosting environment, the theme, the number of plugins, plugin compatibility, and much more – but whenever we place a site on WP Engine, we don’t have to worry about the hosting environment aspect. Sites load quickly and there’s no issues when you start using a content delivery network (CDN) like CloudFlare to speed things up even more.
When it comes to technology, there’s a never ending battle between security and convenience. Sites that are placed on WP Engine are continually scanned for vulnerabilities and outdated plugins requiring security patches. While some site owners just want a ‘set it and forget it’ approach and would rather not get notified when they need to update their site (a very dangerous and reckless approach), their proactive handling of security issues is a good representation of the company’s overall customer-first culture.
Both the security and speed benefits come with their trade-offs. To live within their ‘walled garden’, your site cannot use any of their disallowed plugins which include caching plugins, related posts plugins, and some security plugins. Generally these plugins aren’t allowed because they are unnecessarily processor-intensive (they use up all of the server’s power for little benefit) or WP Engine’s environment already offers the functionality.
Recently, WP Engine made a huge change to their support approach: they remove the “Open a Ticket” button. Instead, you must start a live chat session with a support rep and they will only open a ticket if they can’t resolve the issue. What seemed like a disaster actually turned into a beautiful support experience: 24/7 reps respond instantly (or within a few minutes at the most), my requests have been resolved within a couple of minutes, and the ticket system isn’t missed one bit!
I met up with Dustin Meza, WP Engine’s Director of Customer Experience, at WordCamp Orange County, and he said that this approach has been a win for both customers and the company.
Overall, WP Engine’s support team is competent and can speak ‘geek’ with pros who are familiar with their systems and just want to get into the nitty gritty of a request. Of note, most of my interactions with their support is related to requests (installing an SSL certificate, getting access to WP CLI, etc) rather than issues with a site.
WP Engine isn’t afraid to push the limits of their software and hardware. They’re already in the forefront of PHP 7 adoption and even released a PHP Compatibility Checker that lets you see if your theme+plugins are ready for PHP 7, which boosts site speeds by more than 2x.
Beyond that, WP Engine’s site tools cover all the bases. phpMyAdmin for database access, SFTP access, WP CLI (for developers, must be requested), nightly automatic backups, manual backups, easy SSL configurations, and more.
Creating a staging environment on WP Engine is a one-click process. You can also transfer your staging site to the live environment if you make updates there then want to bring them to production. It’s all a seamless process for checking plugin updates before you update on live or checking out some new CSS.
The migration process is incredibly user-friendly. Using their Migration Plugin, you pop in some server information into the settings then let the system take care of the rest. Your database and files are all migrated into WP Engine and you’re ready to change your DNS info for the final step.
No more host hopping
After going through countless hosts to find the right home, I have no plans to move away from WP Engine. My interactions with other hosts’ support systems and control panels only work to solidify this decision.
If you’re looking for a reliable and modern WordPress webhost, check out WP Engine’s plans. Save 20% on your first payment with the coupon summersavings.
PS – WP Engine didn’t ask me to write this post and my primary intention of this post is to share with the community my experiences with hosting and why Luminary proudly hosts with them. However, the link above is part of their affiliate program.