WP Engine Review: Managed WordPress Hosting for Serious Online Stores
For an online store, you need a fast website, one that’s secure, high-performance, and with the ability to support varying degrees of traffic. You can optimize your site all you want, but the key to a reliable, speedy, and secure website is high-quality hosting. Usually, that means signing up with a managed hosting company, but it’s also important to find a host with top-tier hardware, content delivery networks, and an overall robust infrastructure. Shared hosting rarely cuts it for growing online stores. That’s why we want to complete a WP Engine review, because it’s one of the leading managed WordPress hosts, and all users gain access to a platform with best-in-class technology partners (like Google Cloud and AWS), along with features to ensure your site runs well at all times.
In this WP Engine hosting review, we’ll cover the elements that make WP Engine stand out, including its features, pricing, and customer service. Along with all of that, we’ll explore aspects of WP Engine’s platform like its uptime/downtime, security measures, and whether you can choose the location of your data center. Keep reading our WP Engine review to learn more.
WP Engine Review: The Products and Features
WP Engine mainly provides WordPress hosting services, but they are broken up into multiple products. For instance, you may want to opt for an ecommerce hosting product where WP Engine installs and manages updates for the WooCommerce plugin. On the other hand, you may simply want regular WordPress hosting with managed elements like PHP updates, caching, and site backups. Regardless of your needs, it appears WP Engine offers something for everyone.
Here are the products you can choose from:
- WordPress Hosting for Businesses
- Enterprise WordPress Platform
- WooCommerce Hosting
- Agency and Freelancer Tools
- Headless WordPress Platform
The vast majority of customers require basic WordPress hosting for their business. However, it’s not uncommon to need WooCommerce hosting, or even something like Enterprise hosting if you’re scaling fast. We also like the Agency and Freelancer tools for developers who need to pass along WordPress website builds to clients.
In our WP Engine review, we’ll mainly look into the features for the WordPress and WooCommerce hosting. Take a look at our favorite features below:
Automated Updates for PHP, WordPress, and Plugins
WordPress requires many updates if you self host. From the actual WordPress update that comes around every once in a while to PHP updates, and don’t forget updates for installed WordPress plugins and themes. The problem with all of these updates is that you often have to make the upgrades manually–and if you don’t, it opens up your site to security vulnerabilities and bugs.
That’s one reason managed WordPress hosting is so helpful. You often pay a little extra for managed hosting, but it saves you time and secures your site (which could save you thousands of hundreds, thousands, or millions of dollars in the future).
WP Engine hosting offers automated PHP and WordPress updates in all of its plans. You’re left to your business with no need to keep checking back in with the WordPress dashboard for updates. It’s all handled for you, so security and bug fixes happen automatically. WP Engine also sells automated plugin updates, but it costs extra. We’re not fond of this upcharge, but at least WP Engine provides the option. Just expect to pay anywhere from $3-$17 per month depending on your plan (the Professional plans already have plugin updates included).
Regardless, our WP Engine review showed that the host helps you out tremendously by making sure WordPress, PHP, and plugins are all up-to-date.
Customizable Themes and Workflow Options for Building a Site
Constructing a site on WordPress usually requires a theme and some plugins, maybe a drag-and-drop builder, and a hired dev if you want to go the highly customized route. You typically must combine these elements together when you make a self-hosted WordPress site. Therefore, you’d pay for a website builder, your web host, a WordPress theme, and whatever plugins you need to establish the desired functionality.
WP Engine cuts out many of these expenses and moving pieces by providing free WordPress themes, workflow tools, and even integrations with the most popular website builders. The online store pricing plans also have ecommerce-ready WordPress themes to ensure you can construct an online shop within a matter of minutes.
Now, themes don’t suddenly make you a website designer, but they definitely help. You no longer have to look around for a premium theme to buy, and there are various tools for designing your site, launching a WordPress site with one click, and integrating with other popular tools like customer relationship management systems and payment processors.
The great part about the premium themes is that they’re StudioPress themes, one of the most reputable WordPress theme and framework brands for constructing powerful blogs, online stores, and business websites. You get to use these for free and launch your website with the Genesis framework, and it doesn’t cost you anything extra, since every WP Engine customer gets to use them. And if you don’t like the themes, you can simply turn to another theme developer and still install something from elsewhere online.
1-click Staging Sites and Backups
Developing a website often involves working in a staging environment, where the changes you make don’t appear on the live, frontend version of the site. Staging is essential for all WordPress development actions, like if you want to test a plugin or theme, or if you’re planning on adding something like a new promotional banner to your store’s homepage. All of these changes should go through a staging process to see what they look like, how the element affects the functionality of your site, and potentially to send those changes to stakeholders prior to publication.
We’re pleased to see that all WP Engine users receive access to a staging environment. This means you can see your website in its current form, allowing you to run final tests prior to publication and understand its functionality right now. This helps you produce stronger websites, avoid breaking your site, and gives you a moment to catch bugs or content errors. After the staging process, WP Engine offers a one-click solution for pushing those changes to the live environment. You don’t even need any development experience, since it’s all handled in the user-friendly dashboard.
Constant Security Measures and Threat Blocking
Along with speed and pricing, security should always remain one of the top priorities when looking for a web host. Premium hosts, like those that offer VPS, cloud hosting, and managed hosting, tend to focus more on security since they don’t simply throw all client websites on a shared server. WP Engine is no different in that respect since it provides consistent security protocols to scan your website, identify threats, and block them when they appear.
In addition, WP Engine has features like disk write protection, disk write limitations, and user enumeration to block actions that may cause trouble with your website. We also like how WP Engine has a list of disallowed plugins, cutting out the chances that some poorly coded plugin crashes your site or causes a conflict between another plugin or theme.
Potentially the most important part is that WP Engine users get their websites placed on dedicated hosting environments. You’re not sharing with hundreds of other websites on one server, so your resources are isolated and not affected by other files. WP Engine partners with some of the most recognizable names in the game, including AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Google Cloud Platform to ensure that the actual servers are in secure locations, they have physical protection, and there are the proper cooling systems installed.
Overall, our WP Engine review shows that the host boasts an enterprise-grade security system available for all users. This includes backups, firewalls, DDoS protection, malware monitoring, and the free SSL certificates you install on your ecommerce store. Pair that with dedicated servers and WordPress updates and we feel WP Engine is just about the most secure hosting solution possible.
File backups also fall into the security category, but we feel they’re worth a mention on their own. Essentially, you can never completely protect from your site getting hacked or damaged in some way. That’s where site backups come into play. You can backup everything from the database to your content, and the WordPress files to the assets saved within those files. Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t autocomplete these backups for you. You’re left to install a backup plugin (which usually requires a regular payment), link the backups to a cloud storage service, and potentially complete the backups on a manual basis. Even these automated plugins tend to make us nervous sometimes, since it’s easy to forget about the location of the backups or even know if they’re working properly.
We’d rather see automated backups from a managed WordPress host, and that’s exactly what WP Engine offers. Essentially, these backups happen in the background of your user portal without having to click any buttons. But that’s the benefit: all of the backups are accessible from your WP Engine dashboard, so it’s almost impossible to forget where to find them. WP Engine also provides a one-click restore solution just in case you have to bring back a version of your site from the recent past.
Options for SSLs and CDNs
Although not available for free in some of the basic web hosting plans, WP Engine includes hosting options to activate an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate and a CDN (content delivery network) for a fee (or when you upgrade to a certain pricing plan).
An SSL certificate helps you secure transactions when launching an online store. It’s usually only necessary when you have an ecommerce shop (legally required, actually) so that all transactional and credit card information typed into your store gets encrypted. This way, your customers are protected from potential hackers, and your website abides by the law. You can always install an SSL certificate for free, but we enjoy seeing this option included from web hosts. The basic WP Engine web hosting plans don’t have SSLs, but the most important thing is that you can install an SSL certificate with any of the WP Engine ecommerce plans.
A CDN, on the other hand, functions as a way to speed up loading times for your website. It connects your server to a network of computers around the world so that those files get served up from the machines that are closest to the end user. Overall, it takes advantage of locational proximity, seeing as how websites load faster when they’re shared by a server that’s closer to the person trying to see the site. It appears that WP Engine doesn’t give you a free CDN with its basic web hosting, but it’s possible to get a CDN by paying extra or simply upgrading to one of the ecommerce plans.
WP Engine Review: The Pricing
WP Engine pricing is categorized into the following packages:
- Managed WordPress
- Ecommerce Solutions
- Advanced Solutions
The Advanced Solutions are for enterprise-grade hosting, agencies, and freelancers. You must contact WP Engine for those solutions in order to receive a custom plan.
However, WP Engine lists pricing for its WP managed and ecommerce hosting:
Managed WordPress Pricing
- Startup Plan: Starting at $25 per month for maximum speed, performance and SEO capabilities. You receive proactive threat blocking, automated updates for PHP and WordPress, customizable themes, staging, and backups. This plan supports one website, 25k monthly visitors, 10 GB storage, and 50 GB bandwidth.
- Professional: Starting at $49 per month for everything in the previous plan, 3 sites, 75k visits, 15 GB storage, and 125 GB bandwidth.
- Growth: Starting at $96 per month for everything in the previous plans, 10 sites, 100k visits, 20 GB storage, and 200 GB bandwidth.
- Scale: Starting at $242 per month for everything in the previous plans, 30+ sites, 400k visits, 50 GB storage, and 500 GB bandwidth.
- Dedicated custom: Custom pricing for hosting needs that are significantly more than the previous plan.
For every plan, you can also add-on additional sites for up to $17 per month, automated plugin updates for up to $17 per month, and an added layer of security (DDoS protection, firewall, and SSL) for up to $50 per month depending on the plan.
Ecommerce Hosting Pricing
- Startup: Starting at $30 per month for a hosting platform built on WooCommerce, automated updates for your site, premium WooCommerce themes, and the Gutenberg builder. You also get support for 1 site, 25k visits, 10 GB of storage, and 50 GB of bandwidth per month.
- Professional: Starting at $63 per month for 3 sites, 75k visits per month, 15 GB of storage, and 125 GB of bandwidth.
- Growth: Starting at $117 per month for 10 sites, 100k visits per month, 20 GB of storage, and 200 GB of bandwidth.
- Scale: Starting at $292 per month for 30+ sites, 400k visits per month, 50 GB of storage, and 500 GB of bandwidth.
- Dedicated custom: A custom ecommerce hosting plan for anything you need over the previous plan.
In the ecommerce pricing section, you can add additional sites for $17 per month, or an extra layer of security for up to $83 per month. Automated plugin updates are included for all ecommerce plans.
It’s also worth mentioning that all WP Engine plans come with a 60-day money-back guarantee. That way, you can test out the platform to see if it’s right for you. Unfortunately, there’s no free trial, but the money-back guarantee at least gives you some way out if it’s not for you.
Keep in mind that WP Engine also has more specific plans in case one of the packages listed above doesn’t work for you. For instance, you could try one of the Managed Hosting Plus plans, which start at around $28 per month and include automated plugin updates, auto-rollbacks for when you detect problems, and the option to auto update plugins that you choose. Or you could opt for a Secure Hosting plan, which starts at $44 per month and throws in features like DDoS protection, automatic plugin updates, and a security firewall.
WP Engine Review: The Customer Support Team and Online Resources
WP Engine provides customer support in two forms: online resources and direct human support. We’ll start by talking about the direct support since that’s generally how someone with a real website problem would address their issues: by calling, emailing, or using chat support.
To begin, we can see that WP Engine offers a phone number on its website to speak with a sales representative. That’s definitely a form of support, but it seems there isn’t a phone number for you to call if you want to speak to someone about technical support. However, you can log into your unique WP Engine support console to receive 1-on-1 chat or email support from a real WordPress expert. We’ve also found during our testing that the customer reps are knowledgeable and friendly. Oh yeah, and they’re available 24/7/365, meaning you never have to wait until after a holiday or the weekend to get the answers you need. So, you get a chatbox and email support, but no phone for tech support. That’s not bad, but we’d like to see a more direct phone support line in the future. They do get some points for having a phone number listed, even though it’s just for sales.
As for the online resources, WP Engine packs a significant amount of information on its website. Their support center includes an area to search for tutorials, videos, and other knowledgebase information. They have articles for topics like creating new subsites, understanding server caching, and sending emails on WP Engine.
You can also find a resource center, blog, and customer support page, all of which come together to provide an incredible amount of knowledge, inspiration, and details about how to understand the WP Engine interface, use its tools to their maximum effectiveness, and learn from other WordPress users who have experience with WP Engine (especially if you’re a beginner).
Overall, WP Engine continues to impress us with its focus on helping customers. You can always get in touch with a customer support rep, the resources online are more than what you need, and some plans even get you a dedicated support rep that you can get in touch with whenever you want.
Is WP Engine Right for You?
Is the pricing right? Does WP Engine have all the best features for hosting your website? Does the customer service give you the confidence to run your website well into the future?
From our WP Engine review, we’ve discovered that WP Engine is not the cheapest web hosting on the market (it’s closer to the likes of Kinsta and Flywheel). However, there’s an incredible amount of value packed into its pricing plans. You get far more than you would with a budget, shared hosting plan (like Siteground, Dreamhost, Bluehost, InMotion, or Hostgator), and some of these features are essential if you plan on scaling up a small business or running an online store. Take some of the security features, for instance.
You can’t run a valuable website if you don’t have automated daily backups, caching, an SSL certificate, and security monitoring. Features like staging and the premium themes may just seem like extras, but those other ones are essential to ensure that your website is running efficiently, you don’t have any problems with security, and there aren’t any situations with outdated plugins or WordPress elements. We also believe WP Engine is one of the best hosts because your entire WordPress content management system gets managed from start to finish.
Finally, it’s nice to see that WP Engine partners with several of the top hosting providers (like Google Cloud and AWS), which means you’re putting your website files on dedicated servers that offer the best hardware, fastest page load speeds, and locations all over the world.
So, do we recommend WP Engine? Absolutely! It makes the most sense for serious online stores that plan to scale fast, as well as for those stores that expect seasonal traffic to increase sporadically. WP Engine has the surge support, customer service, and reasonable pricing to help all of these businesses. Let us know in the comments if you have any questions about our WP Engine review, or if you’ve used WP Engine for your hosting in the past.