It’s not news that WordPress is the most popular CMS. What you may not know is how much work it takes to keep your site running smoothly and secure, particularly in these days of increasing cyberattacks. This article will tell you why we choose WP Engine for all our WordPress hosting needs. It might be just what you need!
What is WP Engine and what do they offer?
WP Engine is a specialized hosting company that puts security at the top of their list. This has made them one of the most popular WordPress hosts, with over 30 million websites using WP Engine services. Their tools and managed hosting take care of all the hard work that goes into maintaining your site and keeping it up-to-date and secure. You can find more about how they work on their website.
Why do we use WP Engine?
Most WordPress hosts offer similar options, that is until you dig a little deeper.
Over the years we have used Siteground, WPMUDev, SpinupWP and Kinsta as hosts.
Most of these all do similar things.
- They have multiple data centre’s.
- WordPress core updates are made easier.
- Automated daily backups.
- Affordable shared hosting plans.
- WordPress install tools for easy setup.
- WordPress support team that include a team of WordPress experts to assist your in your hosting service.
- A hosting solution aimed at getting great load times for WordPress websites.
- Caching tools and professional CDN style setups as a complete web hosting platform.
WP Engine offers a couple of features that other hosts don’t, and these are the reason we started using them.
In this article we reveal the main reasons we choose WP Engine. Hint: Its not because of pages speed or price.
3 environments per site.
Most managed WordPress hosts offer one staging environment – if anything at all. WP Engine offers 3 for each site (Staging, Develop, Live) meaning their customers can test in any environment before making changes to the live site. This allows you to preview changes without affecting your live site.
A standard feature of any WordPress host is to offer a staging environment. A staging environment is just like a backup for your site. Every time you make a change to the site, it will be saved on the staging environment so that you can preview it without affecting your live site. Cloning the site
With our previous host, Kinsta, you don’t actually get a staging environment that is exactly the same as your live site. Kinsta staging has lower resources and that makes your staging environment less valuable.
No other WordPress host I’m aware of has 3 environments by default per site.
Local Development Tools
Any developer knows that the best way to develop and manage a website is locally. However, once you start developing on your personal machine you need to send your WordPress site to your host provider and that can be hard.
Local for WP is a great development tool. It creates an almost perfect local hosting environment.
The WP Engine dashboard integrates with LocalWP to provide a simple, graphical interface for managing your local development environment. Even better, WP Engine provides a magic sync tool. This means you only upload or download the files you need. This is a huge time saver for our teams and a great help to debug your website fast.
Kinsta has a tool called devkinsta – which is really cool however it has a couple of weaknesses.
- It only allows a full sync of your docker container. This is OK on the initial download or a final upload, but for small tweaks it can take a long time to keep a site in sync. This is especially true for some of our bigger websites.
- devkinsta has no debugging integration at the time of writing. This means you need to know docker and ssh really well to get xdebug working in vscode. For some of you reading this that may as well be written in another language, trust me – its a big deal.
- Local for WP does not use docker. With M1 Macs and our windows machines we find that Local is faster overall. No one wants to wait 30 seconds to load a webpage on your dev environment, and WP Local is in some cases literally 30 seconds faster on a page load.
Local for WP is not perfect, very few things in this world are. I sometime get synchronisation glitches and other little problems. Not being able to use the latest Terminal on Windows is not ideal but its still a good tool and is better than the rest of our options for local development.
Smart WordPress Updates
WP Engine offers an automated update system that’s a lot easier than most hosts. With most WordPress hosts, you have to be constantly checking your WordPress site for updates and then figuring out how to update it without breaking the site. This can lead to serious problems on rare occasions. With the WP Engine automatic updater tool, this isn’t a problem at all–you just install this plugin and let it do its thing.
With WP Engine’s smart plugin manager, your plugins are automatically updated without any need for action on your part. All of your plugins will always be up-to-date without costing you time or worry!
WP Engine’s smart plugin manager has a unique feature wherein it updates plugins with AI and auto-rollbacks if there is an error.
This means that WP engine not only ensures your site is secure but also offers everything you need for safe ongoing maintenance.
If you find a particular problematic plugin, you can also choose which plugins are auto updated.
WPMUDEV does have an auto update tool and reports, which I find pretty good but it does not really come close to the high quality of the AI tool that WP Engine has. If you want Automated updates WP engine should be your first choice. It wont replace a care plan but it sure makes them more affordable.
The migration tools for WP Engine are really simple and easy to use. All you need to do is log in to your old host provider’s portal and download your files. Next, reload the files into WP Engine using their import tool. That’s it!
It is highly automated and so far we have not had a single issue with a site migration to WP Engine.
WP engine also helps me transfer my clients billing to a dedicated account. Site transfers within WP Engine are easy and painless for our clients.
WP Engine has a transferable install feature which makes moving sites between accounts a breeze – you can take a look at a video guide on how this works here.
One note here – the domain tools often make old entry types for Cloudflare DNS.
I did a video on the migration process if you want to check that out. When I was doing migrations I found that the domain name tool adds an A Record instead of using C-Name flattening. An easy fix (especially now I have documented it). If you are using the Global Edge Service (GES) or want to avoid IP Address updates in the future. C-Names are the right way to map your domain names.
Australian Dollar Billing
WP Engine bills in Australia Dollars. This is a big help for Australian companies.
If you want to avoid all those fees for Credit Card payments in USD, its a good idea to use a host that bills in your local currency.
With WP Engine me and my clients get predictable billing without the credit card fees.
SSH and API Keys
With WP Engine, SSH keys provide an additional layer of protection for your account. If you don’t use this, it is highly advisable to start using it. A lot of hosts don’t offer SSH keys by default and they should be.
I have used SSH Keys with Kinsta but the associated server signatures often change because they use a container environment. That means I often have to clear out signatures that can potentially open a security concern.
The great thing with WP Engine is I add my keys to a central profile and they then follow me all over the site environments. We have multiple accounts and I now longer have to think about loading keys on multiple servers or environments. That’s a big time saver.
My favourite CLI tool is also included – WP CLI. This again is a big timer saver. If you don’t know about WP CLI, you are missing out. Take a look over the various guides on the WordPress website to get started.
DNS and CDN Options
Recently Kinsta announced you must use Cloudflare for DNS. This sounds like a good idea but it does cause some problems for our customers.
Cloudflare is an awesome tool, but it is not perfect. Cloudflare is great if your site gets attacked or has DDOS attempts. The thing with Cloudflare though is that it caches content which can be really bad when the site changes with some HTML updates in the background.
We also found with multisite logins the session management can become a nightmare when using Cloudflare. Its unfortunately a red flag for us. Luckily WP Engine has a few options on this and we are able to get a good solution for our team.
One thing to note here is the Global Edge Security powered by Cloudflare is a really great tool but it has its limitations.
If you want the most out of Cloudflare then pay for a pro account directly. I recommend making use of the WordPress APO package. Its a great tool and you get support. If you use free Cloudflare with GES it can give you some glitches. WP Engine support is great but you need to consider that Cloudflare support is woeful on the free account.
One of my main concerns with Cloudflare using WP Engine is the lack of configuration options in the WP Engine panel. If you need this, make sure to get a lower grade account and pay for Cloudflare APO separately.
Why WP Engine may not fit for you
WP Engine is far from perfect. They are good but they also have a few show stoppers for many WordPress users.
Here is my quick checklist:
- Multisite cost extra – not sure why but it does. If you use multisite make sure you are aware of that.
- No Revisions by default – yeah, weird right? You can turn on revisions but you need to get support to do it for you. You are limited to 5 revisions which is fine for over 90% of our clients. I find have to make a request to support for this a bit ridiculous in 2021. So WP Engine – you guys should fix that and make all install use the 5 revisions with an admin toggle area.
- No Composer – PHP composer is such a common thing and is even mentioned on the Torque blog as an important dev tool. If you use composer and CI to deploy your sites then WP Engine will not work for you. Look else where.
- No NPM – NPM on the command line is become more and more of a thing. If you need NMP go to WPMUDev. They have a pretty cool hosting option that includes NPM tools. Alternatively you could go down the Spinup WP Route and use your own digital ocean server.
- Limited PHP Memory – The default PHP memory is just 40MB. That’s tiny and not enough. You can increase this to a maximum of 256MB in your WP config so make sure you are aware of what your site needs are. If you have a memory hungry site then WP Engine is not for you.
- APM Limitations – Some server providers allow you to make use of New relic or other tools to monitor your site. APM is not currently available for Shared hosting plans with WP Engine. That’s a bummer. If your a developer your options are Kinsta / Spinup WP.
- SFTP Sync – If you like using an SFTP program to sync your site, it generally wont work with WP Engine. WP Engine has a weird setup that means if you don’t delete a file first, you cannot overwrite it using the SFTP setup. I’m not sure if this is just the tool I use (WinSCP) but its a pain. If you use SFTP a lot (I don’t because of Local for WP) then this may be a reason to choose another host.
- CRON Jobs – if you need reliable cron jobs then I can’t really recommend WP Engine. I have found that you need to use action scheduler for anything intensive and sometimes it seems to skip crons. This is really a big problem with Events Calendar. For that, maybe try the liquid web family of hosting products and WPMU is also pretty good for this.
- Cloudflare Access – Having access to Cloudflare web rules directly from your console is not available. This can cause traffic issues if you have deleted content that is being hit (like me). I personally find it annoying and the team at WP Engine are aware that they need to fix this. Lets hope those fixes show up in the early part of 2022.
Our Decision made – use WP Engine as our first choice host.
When it comes to comparing your hosting remember that speed and price is only one metric. Take a look at the whole picture and work out what is important for you.
WP Engine provides a simple and easy-to-use platform for hosting your WordPress website. Whether you are looking for a solution that includes migration tools, Australian Dollar Billing or SSH Keys to provide an additional layer of security, WP Engine is the best option available in Australia. If you need help setting up these features on your site – give us a call!