There are a million web hosts out there, and they all seem to offer the same services for rock bottom pricing. Unlimited this, unlimited that. 24/7 support. Unlimited disk space. The list of “unlimited” goes on and on it seems, to the point that it’s almost difficult to choose a good hosting provider nowadays. What people don’t often realize, especially those who are new to the scene, is that all of that unlimited resources and 24/7 support often comes with a couple of things that you’re just going to have to deal with. The main issue with the low-priced hosting providers in my opinion, is their sheer inability to present anything resembling decent customer service to their customers. Now it’s true that you shouldn’t expect the world for $3.95 a month, but it’s not unreasonable to expect semi-custom replies to tickets, and a dash of personality here and there from the support reps.
What’s really going on behind the scenes however is a staff of highly overworked, underpaid, and often times under-appreciated staff members that are struggling to keep up with their crushing workloads and unrealistic ticket metrics, and resort to firing off copy and paste answers. The end result that is felt by the consumer is a rather impersonal, frustrating experience in dealing with support reps.
One hosting company that I started off with, who will remain nameless, was notorious for linking you to an article residing in their KB in response to your question, then closing out the ticket without confirming that issue was resolved. That would be fine and dandy I suppose, but the real problem was that the KB was junk. This became an even bigger issue as I tried out different Content Management Systems and eventually settled on WordPress, as I quickly learned that they simply didn’t have the expertise or initiative to answer my WordPress related questions. That’s when I started looking to hop ship to something better, if it existed.
1 month after this site was launched and as I was trying to figure out what direction it would take, I also decided that if I wanted to produce anything meaningful and reach people, that I had better start looking around for a WordPress host that was as dedicated as I am. I researched several WordPress-only hosting providers, and eventually settled with WP Engine.
Now that you’re sufficiently bleary eyed and deaf from the video sales pitch, let’s talk about what my real experience with WP Engine has been like so far.
1.) My Site Is Actually Faster ( No, really. )
The claim that they can increase your sites loading speed is 100% true, and I’m not even using their CDN plan which would offer cached copies of my site to the nearest locale, resulting in further speed increases. After switching to WP Engine, I immediately noticed that most of my pages were ranking 1-2 pages higher than before.
Update : WP Engine uses LiNode for their back end infrastructure – guess who is seriously beefing up their servers? ;)
Google’s search engine heavily favors pages that load fast and will reward them with a higher page rank, as long as the content is original and presents value. As such, I was rewarded for producing quality content and a fast loading website, by having my sites ranked higher in Google. This doesn’t mean that you can sign up with WP Engine to push your thin, MFA / Affiliate Word Press sites and receive an instant boost in revenue and traffic, because Google doesn’t value thin content.
What it does mean however, is that if you are trying to produce original content and reach a wider audience in the process – then you should get serious about getting a host that can guarantee increased speed. Don’t believe me? Check out my traffic report after I switched to WP Engine.
See how the traffic started to pick up shortly after I moved hosts, with the exception of the a few re-shares on Reddit? That directly corresponds with the time that I moved over to WP Engine, and that’s a fact.
I fully credit WP Engine with making my site easier to find in Google thanks to their continued ability to serve my website as fast as possible.
What downtime? Oh…downtime – I remember that from the good ol’ days, back when I was just a young city slicker getting my whistle wet in the hosting industry. In the interest of full transparency I’m going to reluctantly admit that this site was offline for a total of 10 minutes or so shortly after I signed up. It hasn’t been down or unreachable by Google since then, another thing that the search engines absolutely love.
Search engines like websites that stay online, not ones that area crashing every other day. With my other web hosts, it was common for this website to crash after adding a new plugin, or even running the spell check feature. The reason that things were unstable is thanks to a sales practice commonly employed in the hosting industry, otherwise known as “over-selling.”
The idea is simple – stuff as many clients as you can on one physical machine with the reasonably safe assumption that some people will use more than others, and some people will use a lot less than other customers. In theory it’s a decent idea, but all it takes is one person on the server that is being naughty, for the entire thing to go down.
WP Engine does use shared hosting as well, but they have a very thorough system of quality assurance and a strict plugin curation policy to assure that everyone gets their fair share. The result? A smooth, stable, and reliable experience for everyone on the server. I’ve even had them message me after installing a plugin to let me know they had removed it, as it was known to cause issues with database indexing. Pretty awesome.
3.) Customer Service
Customer service with WP Engine is amazing every single time I’ve had need to work with one of them. All of the support reps are personable, enthusiastic, and genuinely care about resolving your concern/question/issue as expediently as possible. I don’t know what’s in the water over there in Austin, but I suspect it’s also thanks to the company culture of WP Engine that their employees are so happy and helpful.
Go with another hosting provider offering rock bottom prices, and you’re likely to feel like you’re talking to a robot more often than not. Here’s an example of the friendliness of the WP Engine support staff – I had asked this guy a rather silly question in the interest of killing time, and here was his response :
Since then I’ve worked with Daniel on several other issues, and he’s been just as awesome each and every interaction we’ve had. How many of you have ever felt like writing a positive review of your current host just because of 1 employee? Probably not a whole lot I’d wager.
If anyone from WP Engine is reading this, please give Daniel a raise – he rocks!
4.) Quality Assurance
WordPress is an excellent CMS, and it’s one of the most widely used ones out there for a few reasons. It’s easy to use, easy to set up and maintain, and even easier to find free/paid plugins to enhance the core functionality. One downside to all of the plugins floating around out there is the fact that some of them may not be written well, or optimized to work with the latest version of WordPress.
One bad plugin can crash your entire site AND the server that is housing all of the shared clients – that’s why WP Engine keeps a very carefully curated list of disallowed plugins. This ensures a smooth WordPress experience for everyone, and it’s something that I wish more hosting providers would consider.
5.) They’re Actually WordPress Experts
In addition to completely managing the back-end infrastructure that enables the WordPress installation, they take care of literally everything else that is WordPress related on your website. They handle all updates, any hacking attempts, and even perform full backups of your website every single day. They’ll even spend time tweaking your website if it’s not performing up to their standards, for no reason other than they can, and that they have the desire and expertise to do so. The end result is that you’re able to focus on writing quality content, and keep engaging your readers – you did get into blogging to have a voice and express yourself right?
And that’s pretty much it, a rave review for WP Engine because I sincerely enjoy their service and appreciate their dedication to customer service. Their cheapest plan starts at $29.99 a month, but after using their services for these past 6 months I will never consider going back to a lower priced “unlimited” web host again – WP Engine is proof that the saying “you get what you pay for” still holds true in 2013. So, go ahead and check WP Engine out if you’ve been looking for a better way to run your WordPress sites – I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.