Whether you are creating a blog, an eCommerce shop, or a business page, the success of your website begins with the hosting.
Your website host lays the groundwork that determines how your site will fare in terms of performance, reliability, and security, which is why it is important to choose the right hosting company from the outset.
In this article, we’ll be looking at two of the most recommended WordPress hosts and what they offer in terms of functionalities and pricing.
Let’s dive in!
Image source: WP Engine
Pagely may have been the first platform to offer managed WordPress hosting services, but WP Engine currently holds the plaque as one of the biggest companies in the industry.
The Austin based company was among the first set of companies to offer managed WordPress hosting services and they now serve more than 80,000 customers across over 140 countries.
While they have a lot of competition in some of the most popular brands like GoDaddy, Bluehost, and others, WP Engine stands out because of their wealth of experience hosting thousands of WordPress sites over the years, not to mention their trained support and top-notch server-side features.
The hosting company delivers in other areas such as high-speed and powerful security, which are the primary reasons why many WordPress users leave their previous hosting companies.
Here’s a full rundown of what to expect from WP Engine:
WP Engine Speed And Performance
When it comes to websites, slow and steady loses the race. Chances are that there are at least a few hundred other websites that do what you do, so if your visitors find it difficult to load your site, they’ll bounce.
There are many variables that determine the speed of a website, but the consistent thing is that complex websites tend to load slower because of all the functionalities that come with them.
Luckily, a WordPress site in pristine condition is fairly lean, hence, it is fast.
If you are running a blog site that requires more text and fewer plugins and images, then you will be fine buying an inexpensive shared hosting plan from just about any managed WordPress hosting company.
However, if you plan to do something that requires more plugins, heavy custom themes, and lots of media files, then you must be ready for the load that follows. These loads can slow down your website loading speed.
When this happens, most WordPress users tend to opt for a higher subscription plan, but improving your website speed takes more than just paying more.
In some instances, you will need to upgrade to a bigger and more powerful server, but sometimes, caching some resources and optimizing your files will simply do the trick.
The bottom line is that you have to put in effort one way or another to make your website stay fast, especially as you introduce additional functions to it, which is where WP Engine comes in.
They care for everything that can affect your speed with their customized servers and powerful caching system.
If your site is a little bit more complicated than caching can solve, they have a dedicated and well-trained engineering team that will log into your website to find the root of the problem.
You can channel your time and effort to figure out how to grow other parts of your business since your site will perform well even if you do not optimize your WordPress installs on your own.
This makes WP Engine an ideal solution for complete beginners. The platform makes it unnecessary for WordPress website owners to be schooled on how to optimize WordPress for speed, since it offers super-speed straight out of the box and remains that way even as the site gets bigger.
If you are not particularly familiar with how speed works in WordPress, you may crash some essential parts of your WordPress such as the layer caching plugins.
They have data centers in the USA, Europe, and Asia, which keeps your data boxes close to your audience, wherever they may be.
WP Engine Customer Support
For companies that provide more services than products, customer support should be given more emphasis.
That is not to say that companies that sell products should suck at customer service, but for service providing companies, customer support is part of what the customer pays for, and WP Engine understands that, which is why customer support is one of the integral parts of their business.
From personal experience, their support team typically responds in minutes, and they do that without autoresponders.
Now, a lot of people have complained in the past that WP Engine over promises when it comes to customer support, but that may just be a few cases of a hot-tempered customer dealing with a rookie, or even an experienced customer rep on a bad day.
If you truly want to nail a company’s support service, then check for their knowledge, systems, and access, judge from past dealings with them, and also what people say about them. WP Engine has all three boxes checked.
Their tutorial videos and interactions with members of their support team show that they have extensive knowledge of the workings of WordPress.
The best part for me is that you can get on a three-way call with a member of their team and your client, even if you are on a low budget plan.
WP Engine Security
WordPress powers more than 30% of websites on the world wide web and as you know, with great power, comes even greater threats.
WordPress status as one of the most popular website building platforms makes it a target for hackers and malware distributors.
Being an open-source platform, a lot of people believe that WordPress-based websites are more likely to fall to cyber attacks than websites built on closed-source platforms, but they couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Aside from all the issues that can affect any software, there’s no reason that your WordPress site should be less secure than the others because it is built on an open-source platform.
On your own part, you may only be required to keep to a few security basics such as installing plugins from only verified creators, updating your plugins regularly, and backing your website in case things go south.
However, WP Engine goes out of their way to do these things for you. They backup your website to keep your resources off-site in case something goes wrong and they act on your behalf if you are ever hacked.
WP Engine Market focus
WP Engine wasn’t designed for everyone. The platform is typically for three types of customers:
Those that require a highly scalable architecture, the non-techies that want a support team on standby in case they hit a wall, and website owners that are seeking an enterprise-based security system.
The first set of customers are the tech experts and developers who are not seeking to use themes and templates, but are merely looking for a platform that allows them to focus on design and development without having to worry about hosting maintenance.
It is ideal for developers who are working for clients that are on a fixed budget. The developers can build their website on WP Engine’s virtual environment, launch it, and hand it over to the client when it’s ready.
The second type of customer can equally be placed in two categories.
There are those that do not know the first thing about coding and development, and so they need guidance through their site-building process.
The second group are those who may know a few things about web development, but are simply frustrated by their previous host, and so they need a more reliable one.
Finally, the third type of customers are startups and established businesses that give priority to their online presence, and so they want a website that can stand the test of time.
WP Engine Hosting features
WP Engine has a wide range of hosting features, which makes it the managed WordPress hosting platform to beat.
For starters, it is able to integrate every new developer feature that comes with version 4 of WordPress, and there has been a lot of changes since WordPress first started.
For example, the Git push setup feature that allows developers to deploy their works from Github has been around for a couple of years now, but it has seen its own fair share of changes.
Another development that is noteworthy is WP Engine’s acquisition of StudioPress.
StudioPress is a framework that allows web developers and non-techies alike to build some of the best WordPress websites that they can, following the best practices in the industry.
This acquisition unlocked WordPress users’ access to dozens of themes that they can download from the WP Engine user portal and upload directly to their websites.
Most of the themes in StudioPress are easy to use and they also have documentation to help you set up and launch your new website as quickly as possible.
One of the best parts is that these themes have a live customization option that lets you see real-time changes to any part of your website that you edit even before you publish the changes.
The platform has rolled out quite a number of useful hosting features, which is one reason why it has stayed on top for so long.
WP Engine Complexity
If you have noticed, the first few points have mostly shown the positive part of WP Engine, but here’s where we tilt towards a few drawbacks that you may experience along the way.
WP Engine has delivered fat on speed, security, and development as they say they will, but at what cost?
From thousands of user-generated reviews on the internet, you will find that although many WP Engine subscribers acknowledge the fact that the platform is worth the time, they wouldn’t mind if it was a lot less complicated.
It is not only newbies and non-techies that think so. Even some pros believe that while their backend interface has gotten a lot cleaner, it is still missing that traditional cPanel hosting backend that they are used to.
For example, WP Engine does not host DNS, which means that you will need to update your DNS directly to with your DNS provider.
These differences can lead the developer to make costly mistakes that will hurt their websites in the long run and this is perhaps the most prominent deterrent for a lot of beginner customers.
Of course, you will eventually get used to it once you get over the learning curve, but it does require a lot of patience, which is something you don’t often find in users that want to create and launch new WordPress websites as quickly as possible.
WP Engine Versatility
WP Engine draws a big line on what thresholds you can and can’t cross in order to run their architecture as well as they can, but this creates a sort of limited versatility.
In their bid to make all the installations on their platform uniform, they ensure that users can only use certain predictable plugins and rely on a predictable visitor pattern to discourage sudden spikes in visitor’s index.
Surely all hosting companies have set aside rules that their users must confine to, but WP Engine defines their limitations quite boldly.
In fact, they have banned several plugins and admin behaviors, and while some will argue that these bans will do more good than harm, they do prevent their users from making random experimentations, thus preventing you from fully getting the best that your website can handle.
One of the most popular plugins not allowed on WP Engine is the ‘Yet another related post’ plugin.
This plugin may be resource-intensive, but it is a fantastic option, especially for very small websites. However, you cannot install it once you are on WP Engine.
Of course, this is neither good nor bad for your website, but it does limit your power of imagination since it is scarcely open to experimentation.
WP Engine Pricing
Using WP Engine makes the phrase “WordPress is free” sound like a big fat lie. In other words, WP Engine is not cheap at all.
Their plans are based on the number of visits that you expect on your site and their startup plan costs $35 per month for a maximum of 25,000 visits.
This goes without saying that you can get more visits for less than half the cost if you buy a shared hosting plan on the likes of Bluehost and others, but here’s the thing:
WP Engine emphasizes price on value, which means that after a breakdown of the features that the platform offers and the time it will take you to do the things that you want to do, you will find out that the price is actually worth it.
For example, it is the best practice to update your website every month and this usually takes about 30 minutes. If you have a developer to do this for you, they will probably charge you around $50/hour, which surpasses your WP Engine monthly fee.
Remember that a bad plugin update can result in downtime that will make you lose visitors, and by implication lose a lot of money. Plus premium security isn’t cheap, so all these considerations indeed make WP seem like a smart investment.
Pantheon is a different type of platform made by developers for developers.
They target experts who want to create enterprise-level WordPress and Drupal sites.
In fact, when the developers of Pantheon spent sleepless nights working on the platform, they had it in mind to create a platform that supports only Drupal websites, but now, they have introduced Pantheon for WordPress.
The goal of the platform is to allow developers to build, launch, and manage their platform from one account so that they can focus their attention on other things without worrying about the working conditions of their server.
Pantheon is responsible for several big websites built on WordPress and they currently power over 55,000 websites already.
They have a free plan for you to test out that lets you deploy your WordPress site on their developer’s environment. Once you are satisfied with what you see, you can then choose from any of their paid plans so that you can take your site live.
Here are a few things to expect on the platform:
My most favorite thing about Pantheon is that you can scale your website’s millions of page visits even when you first launch.
Let’s say that you have been working on launching an online clothing store for a while and have done lots of marketing for it. If you play your cards right, chances are that you will have more than a few thousand visitors and you will have to make sure that your website can handle that much traffic.
For a lot of other hosts, you will have to upgrade to VMs and heavier servers if that happens, but with Pantheon, you can use their ‘containerization’ feature to adjust the number of containers that you have.
According to Brian Krogsgard of Post Status, “The containerization is much more nimble and much more efficient than virtual machines are. “
Pantheon is the first platform that uses container infrastructure, which makes its handling of page views top notch.
Pantheon Partnership And Customer Support
They say that customer service is one of the most important parts of any servicing company and I agree.
A good company should have a team of engineers on standby who will always be able to provide solutions for when their customers get stuck. Well, what if you can even talk to the founders directly?
You can reach out to them if you are looking to set up a special hosting service that you want the top guns to know about.
The company also has a partnership program for agencies and website development companies.
There are a couple of great perks that come with the partnership offer, including live training from Pantheon Academy and free website hosting.
Pantheon Multi-Site Dashboard
There are several concerns that come with running a business, so it helps if there’s a solution that lets you handle a lot of your business solutions from one place.
This is where Pantheon comes in. The platform provides you with a multiple site dashboard that lets you track and maintain your online properties from one place.
The only catch is that you must be subscribed to the agency or enterprise plan to be able to enjoy this service.
With this feature, you can see all your past and present WordPress and Drupal projects on one screen.
It also allows you to bring in a couple of people into the picture. You can interact with your client and develop on the dashboard, so it is ideal for companies and design agencies that have large development teams.
Although I haven’t tested the extent of it, Pantheon boasts that it is able to handle thousands of websites on one dashboard. If this is true, it will save companies a lot of money and time.
Pantheon is just as expensive as WP Engine, even though their basic plan is $6 dollars cheaper than WP Engine’s starter plan.
Bear in mind that WP Engine allows up to 25,000 monthly page views for that price range, whereas Pantheon has a limit of 10,000 monthly page views.
Pantheon lists $687 per month as the price for 300k page views, but they also make provisions for companies that go over that.
Note that the prices are the same for Drupal and WordPress hosting.
Both WP Engine and Pantheon are reliable options for hosting your websites.
Pantheon is perfect for experts and professional developers that are in charge of handling enterprise websites, but for this comparison, our top pick is WP Engine because they offer a wide range of cutting-edge features and services.