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WP Engine Review: The First Impression Matters

Are you planning to move from your current hosting to WP Engine? If so, you may want to read this first. In this WP Engine review post, we will cover everything you need to know before you subscribe to the hosting service, especially CDN which becomes our most concern.

Let’s start the discussion with a brief intro about WP Engine, in case you still need it.

WP Engine is a popular managed WordPress hosting service. There are over 600,000 live websites hosted on WP Engine, according to BuiltWith. That’s a lot. Some WP Engine alternatives, including Kinsta and Pressable, have way fewer live sites according to the same source. Here is the comparison table of the live sites hosted on WP Engine, Kinsta, and Pressable according to BuiltWith.

WP EngineKinstaPressable
600,000+80,000+10,000+
Comparison of number of live websites on WP Engine, Kinsta, and Pressable.

WP Engine itself is a cloud-based WordPress hosting service powered by Google Cloud. It comes with handy features such as built-in CDN (will be covered more in-dept later), cache, staging environment, to scheduled backups. WP Engine is one of the best WordPress hosting for agencies. It offers special program targeting WordPress agencies and freelancers.

The company that runs WP Engine, WPEngine, Inc., is headquartered in Austin, Texas, US. You can learn more about the company on its LinkedIn page. WP Engine is the parent company of ACF (Advanced Custom Fields), Flywheel, and StudioPress.

Note: This review is focused on covering the hosting features and configuration. We didn’t perform further analysis as it can take months to test real hosting quality. Rather, this review is more like about the first impression of WP Engine. We subscribed to the Startup plan for a month for this review.

WP Engine Data Centers

WP Engine adopts several cloud services for its hosting infrastructure, not just Google Cloud. Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) are two other cloud services that power WP Engine.

Microsoft Azure and AWS are available on Premium plans. If you subscribe to lower plans, Startup for instance, you can only select Google Cloud. Here are the data center locations of each cloud service:

Google Cloud:

  • Iowa
  • South Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Montreal
  • Belgium
  • London
  • Frankfurt
  • Netherlands
  • Finland
  • Taiwan
  • Tokyo
  • Sydney
  • Singapore
  • Tel Aviv

AWS:

  • Virginia
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Montreal
  • Ireland
  • London
  • Frankfurt
  • Singapore
  • Sydney

Microsoft Azure:

  • Washington
  • London
  • Netherlands

WP Engine Features

— Custom-Built Control Panel

WP Engine also develops a custom control panel for its hosting service, instead of using a third-party control panel such as cPanel and Plesk. You can use the panel to control the hosting features as well as to purchase additional services (add-ons) when needed.

The WP Engine control panel offers many tools to manage your website as well as to access the features available. The dashboard also offers a Seamless Login feature to allow you to login to your WordPress dashboard via entering username and password.

Here are some screenshots of the WP Engine control panel:

— Cache and CDN

Cache and CDN are the features you need to notice the most if you want to have a fast website. Today, nearly all managed WordPress hosting services already have these features. WP Engine is no exception. Every website hosted on WP Engine has cache and CDN active by default.

WP Engine offers server-level caching. You can control the caching from the control panel under the Cache menu. There are three caching types that WP Engine offers:

  • Page caching
  • Object caching
  • Network caching

Page caching stores the previously generated code necessary to load a page. While the object caching stores the results of queries to your site’s database. You can learn more about page caching and object caching here.

What about network caching?

Network caching is the type of caching that stores the static assets of your website to the global distributed servers. The purpose is to serve the visitors with the server nearest to their locations.

Sounds familiar?

Yes, network caching is pretty similar to CDN. Or, you can simply call it CDN. The fact is that WP Engine offers no dedicated menu to control CDN like, for instance, Kinsta and Pressidium.

You might be wondering. How to know if CDN is already implemented to your website if you have no option to manually enable it? You can use online tools like CDN Finder from CDN Planet.

As you can see on the image above, WP Engine uses Cloudflare for its CDN service.

While you can convince yourself that WP Engine truly offers CDN, it offers no analytics feature to allow you to monitor the CDN usage. It doesn’t even let you know the CDN capacity you have on your plan. As a comparison, in Kinsta, you can monitor the CDN usage on your plan using its built-in analytics tool. Also, you have a full control over the CDN whereby you can disable or enable it yourself.

— Staging Environment

Creating a staging environment can be a safer way to test new features before you add it to your live website. You can also use staging website to test new changes before you apply them to your website. WP Engine offers an effortless way to create a staging website for testing and development purpose.

You can create a staging website by clicking the Add Staging button on the control panel.

There are five options you can choose from when creating a staging website. If you want to create a clone website of your live website, you can choose the Copy an existing environment to this site option.

— Scheduled Backups

The live websites hosted on WP Engine are backed up automatically each day. When an unexpected thing is happening to your website, you can restore your website with a few clicks. If you want to have the backup files of your website on your local storage, you can create a manual backup and download the files in a ZIP archive.

The good news is, according to its documentation page, WP Engine uses a third-party backup service — Amazon S3 — instead of storing your backups to your server. This is great because having backups stored on the same server as your website’s server is like keeping all your eggs in a single basket.

— User Manager

If you have a team to manage your websites, you can make use of the built-in collaboration tool offered by WP Engine. The collaboration tool allows you to invite your team members and grant access according to their roles. The Seamless Login feature which we have mentioned earlier above allows your team members to login to the dashboard of your WordPress website, even if they have no account.

There are five roles you can assign to your team members as follows:

  • Owner
  • Full (with billing)
  • Full (no billing)
  • Partial (with billing)
  • Partial (no billing)

You can access the User Manager from the main dashboard of the control panel.

— File Access and Database Access

WP Engine offers no built-in file manager feature. So, what if you want to edit the WordPress files?

To access the files of your WordPress installation, you can use FTP. You can access the FTP feature by going to the SFTP Users menu on the site menu. You need to create an account first before accessing your files using an FTP client. Simply click the Create SFTP user button to create a new FTP account.

Some free FTP clients you can use to access your files are:

  • Cyberduck (Windows and Mac)
  • WinSCP (Windows)
  • FileZilla (Windows, Mac, and Linux)

## Database Access

Need to access the database of your website? Just like most web hosting services out there, WP Engine also offers database access via phpMyAdmin. The menu to access the feature lies on the upper side of the control panel, right beside the Seamless Login menu.

You can enter the phpMyAdmin panel without entering username and password.

Detailed Specs

Most web hosting services don’t disclose the behind-the-scene technologies used on their service such as web server and database server. For a certain case, these details are crucial. For instance, when you use an optimization plugin that is designed specifically for a certain web server.

Here are the detailed specs of the WP Engine hosting service:

Hosting infrastructure:Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure*, AWS*
CDN platformCloudflare
Control panelCustom-built
Web serverApache
DatabaseMySQL
PHP versions7.4, 8.0, 8.2
phpMyAdminYes
SSLYes. Provided by Cloudflare
SFTPYes
SSHYes
* only available on Premium plans.

— PHP Configuration

PHP configuration is another key aspect to consider when choosing a WordPress hosting server. Especially if you use page builder plugins and form builder plugins like Elementor, Divi Builder, to Gravity Forms.

WP Engine itself supports three PHP versions: PHP 7.4, PHP 8.0 and PHP 8.2. The default configuration uses PHP 8.0. You have an option to downgrade to PHP 7.4 or upgrade to PHP 8.2. The option to downgrade/upgrade PHP version lies on the Overview menu. You can click the PHP version number to show the dialog window.

Here is the detailed PHP configuration of WP Engine:

Maximum input variables10000
Time limit3600
Memory limit512 MB
Maximum input time3600
Maximum file size50 MB
Post maximum size100 MB
cURL version7.74.0 OpenSSL/1.1.1n

Performance Test

As we disclosed on the opening section, this review is not intended to be an in-dept review of WP Engine as it takes months to test real performance of a web hosting service.

Even so, we also performed basic testing using Google PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix to figure out how fast WP Engine is. We used a Divi page for the test. Here are the details about the test.

  • Number of elements on the page: 70 (8 sections and 62 modules)
  • Page size: 717 KB
  • Page requests: 26
  • WP Engine Server location: North America

— Testing Result on Google PageSpeed Insights

A little note when testing the hosting performance using Google PageSpeed Insights. You can ignore the Accessibility and Best Practice scores as they are determined by the page structure. Web hosting has no role on these scores. The same thing also applies on SEO score. Although web hosting has a role in determining the SEO score, the portion is extremely small.

Simply put, you can focus on the Performance score.

— Testing Result on GTmetrix

Here are the testing results on GTmetrix.

The Bottom Line – WP Engine Pros and Cons

600,000 live websites. This number is enough to prove that WP Engine is one of the most popular WordPress hosting services. Its customers ranging from agencies, freelancers, bloggers, to small business owners. WP Engine has all the criteria to be a recommended WordPress hosting: built-in CDN, built-in cache, great PHP configuration, and so on.

The hosting service of WP Engine is designed exclusively for WordPress. You can’t install other applications on your hosting plan. It offers a managed solution to manage your WordPress site. On WP Engine, your WordPress core and themes (except premium themes that require API key) are automatically updated. It also offers daily scheduled backups.

No product is perfect, though.

Compared to other hosting services in the same segment such as Pressidium, Rocket.net, and Kinsta, WP Engine is fall behind in some areas. For instance, it has no dedicated analytics menu to monitor the resource usage. As a comparison, Pressidium and Kinsta have dedicated analytics menu to monitor resource usage such as cache, and bandwidth, and CDN.

Speaking of CDN, WP Engine doesn’t quite transparent. While it clearly offers built-in CDN — powered by Cloudflare — you have no chance to monitor the CDN usage or to disable it in case you need to. Also, some features — like site monitoring and plugin manager — requires extra add-on purchase.

WP Engine Pros:

  • Designed exclusively for WordPress
  • Built-in CDN and cache
  • Excellent performance on both desktop and mobile
  • Great PHP configuration
  • Scheduled backups
  • Easy to collaborate with team

WP Engine Cons:

  • Not quite transparent about CDN
  • The control panel is a bit cluttered
  • Fixed contract (monthly and yearly)
  • Requires add-ons for some basic features
  • No file manager
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Aliko Sunawang

Aliko Sunawang

Aliko is a WordPress expert and lead blogger at WPPagebuilders. He has been blogging with WordPress since 2012. He is responsible of all content published on this website.
Rating:
4.2/5
Our Verdict:
4.2/5

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