Why we moved to WP Engine in 2021

Home / Articles / Why we moved to WP Engine in 2021

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 chose 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 its 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 centres.
  • WordPress core updates are made easier.
  • Automated daily backups.
  • Affordable shared hosting plans
  • WordPress install tools for easy setup
  • The WordPress customer support team includes a team of WordPress experts to assist you with 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 reasons we started using them.

In this article, we reveal the main reasons why we chose WP Engine.

Hint: It’s not because of page load times or hosting costs!

3 environments per site.

Most managed WordPress hosts offer plans including only one staging environment if anything at all. WP Engine offers 3 for each site (Staging, Develop, and 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.

WP Engine offers 3 environments per site.
Three Environments per site with WP Engine

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. It’s basically a clone of 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 fewer 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.

Local for WP - Almost perfect local WP hosting integrates directly with WP Engine
Local for WP – Almost perfect local WP hosting

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 in debugging your website fast.

Kinsta has a tool called DevKinsta, which is really cool, but it has a couple of weaknesses.

  1. It only allows a full sync of your Docker container. This is OK for the initial download or 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.
  2. 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, it may as well be written in another language. Trust me, it’s a big deal.
  3. 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 in their development environment, and WP Local is, in some cases, literally 30 seconds faster on page load.

Local for WP is not perfect. Very few things in this world are. I sometimes get synchronisation glitches and other little problems. Not being able to use the latest Terminal on Windows is not ideal, but it’s 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 constantly check your WordPress site for updates and then figure out how to update it without breaking the site. On rare occasions, this can lead to serious problems. 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.

The Smart Plugin Manager from WP Engine
The Smart Plugin Manager from WP Engine

With WP Engine’s smart plugin manager, your plugins are automatically updated without any 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 with automated security updates 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 performance of the AI tool that WP Engine has. If you want automated updates, WP Engine should be your first choice. It won’t replace a care plan, but it sure makes them more affordable.

Migration tools

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 control panel 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 client’s billing to a dedicated account. Site transfers within WP Engine are easy and painless for our clients.

WP Engine has a transferable install feature that 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 that 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.

Australian Dollar Billing is a big factor for MRK WP. No more FX Risk when using WP Engine.
Australian Dollar Billing is a big factor for MRK WP. No more FX Risk

If you want to avoid all those fees for credit card payments in USD, it’s a good idea to use a host that bills in your local currency.

With WP Engine I 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.

WP Engine provides and SSH login with WP CLI.
WP Engine provides an SSH login with WP CLI

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 clean out signatures that could potentially cause a security concern.

The great thing about WP Engine is that I can add my keys to a central profile and they will then follow me all over the site environments. We have multiple accounts, and I no longer have to think about loading keys on multiple servers or environments. That’s a big-time saver.

My favorite CLI tool is also included: WP CLI. This is again a big-time 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 that with multisite logins, the session management can become a nightmare when using Cloudflare. It’s unfortunately a red flag for us. Luckily, WP Engine has a few options on this and we were able to get a good solution for our team.

One thing to note here is that 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. It’s 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 costs extra: I’m 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 five revisions, which is fine for over 90% of our clients. I find having to make a request to support this a bit ridiculous in this day and age.

So WP Engine, you guys should fix that and make all installs 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 development tool. If you use Composer and CI to deploy your sites, then WP Engine will not work for you. Look elsewhere.

No NPM: NPM on the command line is becoming 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 you’re a developer, your options are Kinsta or Spinup WP.

SFTP Sync: If you like using an SFTP program to sync your site, it generally won’t 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 it is 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 the action scheduler for anything intensive, and sometimes it seems to skip crons. This is really a big problem with the Events Calendar. For that, maybe try the liquid web family of hosting products, 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 frustrating, and the team at WP Engine is aware that they need to fix this. Let’s hope those fixes show up in 2022.

Our Decision made – use WP Engine as our first choice host.

When it comes to comparing your hosting remember that speed and price are 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. If you need help setting up these features on your site, give us a call!

We are a partner agency for WP Engine. If you’re looking for the right developer to handle your WordPress website, please contact us!

Your WP Engine Agency Partner - MRK WP
Your WP Agency Partner – MRK WP
Share via social