WP Engine is an industrial-grade hosting company for WordPress-powered websites. Until recently, I only recommended them to larger clients. But for me, it was time for a change, and I took the plunge last weekend.
Media Temple: Rock Solid for Many Years
For many years, the hosting plan I used for my own website, and the one I recommended most frequently to my clients was Media Temple’s “Grid”— a shared hosting plan that costs about $20 per mth. Here’s what I like about it:
- Reasonably Priced— this is the real price for a reliable hosting plan by the way (not $5 to $15 per mth);
- Multiple Websites— the ability to host up to 100 websites on a single plan;
- Reliability— very little downtime;
- Support— very knowledgeable and very responsive; and
- Scalability— can handle a lot of traffic.
when GoDaddy purchased Media Temple last year, I was skeptical. However, I vowed to remain a customer until I had a good reason to leave. And then I found one. A big one, that caused a lot of headaches with my workflow.
So, I signed up with WP Engine.
WP Engine: What Kept Me Away
I’ve been wanting to support my fellow Austinites for years. But there were a few obstacles to overcome. Here’s what kept me away from WP Engine all this time:
- Pricey— $30 per mth to host a single website;
- Difficult— A time-consuming migration process;
- No Email— But Media Temple’s spam filtering was inadequate anyway. I host business email with Google (excellent spam filtering @ $5 per mth per person).
WP Engine: What Made Me Take the Plunge
Here’s what finally pulled me into the WP Engine fold:
- Media Temple— running a version of MySQL that’s over 7 years old that messed up my workflow, and using a sleazy GoDaddy tactic to upsell me on a more expensive plan (VPS) that I clearly did not need, rather than update MySQL as even the cheapest web hosts have already done;
- WP Engine Special Offer— By purchasing an annual plan with 20% off, I cut the price down to $24 per mth… which is quite reasonable;
- Reality— I searched for a Media Temple replacement for weeks, and just couldn’t find a good fit (not even Media Temple’s own WordPress Hosting plan);
- Performance— no hosting company loads a WordPress-powered website faster (very important for the user experience and SEO);
- Security— WP Engine insists that you keep up with WordPress and plugin updates, and some plugins are even disallowed… that’s good for everyone; and
- Integrated Staging/Test Site— the ability to test your changes on a test site and easily copy the changes to the live site with a single click.
Site Migration to WP Engine
This is the first time I used WP Engine’s Automated Migration Plugin, which definitely made moving my website easier than previous client migrations, and it gives you the opportunity to see what your website will look like before pointing your domain to WP Engine.
Once you’ve pointed your domain to WP Engine, things get a bit more technical.
Search and Replace Within Your Database
After testing your website, you’ll also need to revise your database to reflect the new domain name— i.e., “yourdomain.wpengine.com” needs to be changed to “yourdomain.com”. For years, I’ve been using BackupBuddy for migrations (so much easier/faster), but in this case, you’ll probably want to use this search and replace script.
Watch for Missing Images
Once the database was updated, I noticed a few missing images, and discovered that WP Engine does not copy your entire uploads folder. So, I had to manually upload those images via FTP. Not difficult, but it took a few frustrating hours before I figured out what was going on.
Installing SSL Their Way
Unfortunately, with the Personal hosting plan, WP Engine does not allow the use of third-party SSL certificates— like the one I just purchased a month ago. So, I had to buy one from WP Engine for $40 (roughly half the price I paid for my other one).
It’s worth noting that some WordPress-dedicated hosting companies charge $10 per mth on top of the SSL certificate fee… which pushes your monthly fee up even higher. But not WP Engine.
Setting Up and Using the Staging Site
This is where things went a little sideways for me— the result of using/setting up SSL. Ultimately, WP Engine’s tech support had to place a directive within the database to get the domain names to change properly when going to/from staging. To clarify, “yourdomain.staging.wpengine.com” wasn’t automatically changing to “yourdomain.com” as it should. Apparently, mine is an edge-case related to SSL. But now it works fine.
WP Engine Support: Great But Less Accessible on Evenings and Weekends
Media Temple spoiled me. They are always available 24/7— by phone, chat, or email. Got an emergency? With Media Temple, you’ll get a human being to speak to within a few minutes.
With WP Engine, if you’re working on weekends and nights, the only way to reach tech support is via email. Their response time understandably varies, but when you’re biting your nails trying to get your site working, even 1 hour is too long.
Otherwise, during regular hours, tech support is available via chat, within minutes, and the quality of support is every bit as good as Media Temple, if not better.
Why I’M Here To Stay
Once you get through the migration challenges, you’re all set (as I’ve seen with my WP Engine-hosted clients). You’ll be able to safely update plugins and WordPress on your staging server first; test; and then push your updates to the live site— with ease.
I also love the use of version control with git. WP Engine makes it very easy for me to set up and push all of my code updates from my development environment to the staging site without using FTP— something I could never get to work with Media Temple.
Yes, so far, I’m very glad I made the move, in spite of all the challenges.