WP Engine and Kinsta are two popular managed WordPress hosting services that operate in the same segment: middle-up segment. Be it WP Engine or Kinsta can be a great option if you want to make an upgrade from a traditional shared hosting service. In this WP Engine vs Kinsta post, we will disclose everything you need to know before you make a choice over your new hosting service.
To make it clear, traditional shared hosting we mean here refers to cPanel-based web hosting services that usually offer cheaper price — typically less $10 per month. This type of hosting service commonly has lower resources and low PHP configuration. Unlike this hosting type, WP Engine and Kinsta use container technology to create isolated virtualization-based resources.
In other words, each user has isolated resources running virtually on a container. Each container contains the necessary applications to run WordPress such as web server, database server, and PHP. You can refer this page to learn more about container.
To create this WP Engine vs Kinsta content, we subscribed to the cheapest plan of each hosting service to figure out the undisclosed features, to check the PHP configuration (using the WordPress’s built-in Site Health feature), and to test the performance.
Who Should Use WP Engine and Kinsta?
In general, a managed WordPress hosting service is recommended for business-oriented websites, regardless of the website type you are running. Be it a blog, e-commerce website, to a membership website.
If you are currently using a traditional shared hosting service and plan to make an upgrade to a managed WordPress hosting, then WP Engine and Kinsta are perfect options. At a glance, both WP Engine and Kinsta look pricier than most traditional shared hosting services. But consider the following features:
Not to mention container technology that offers isolated resources. More importantly, both WP Engine and Kinsta offer way better PHP configuration to make your WordPress runs smoothly.
Data Center Locations
Both WP Engine and Kinsta adopt cloud technologies for the hosting service they run. WP Engine uses the cloud technologies from Google Cloud, AWS, and Microsoft Azure. However, not all users can use these cloud services. AWS and Microsoft Azure are only available on Premium plans.
Meanwhile, Kinsta uses Google Cloud only.
Here are the data center locations you can choose when adding a new website on WP Engine and Kinsta:
— WP Engine
- South Carolina
- Tel Aviv
- São Paulo, Brazil
- Santiago, Chile
- Council Bluffs, Iowa, USA
- Moncks Corner, South Carolina, USA
- Ashburn, Virginia, USA
- Columbus, Ohio, USA
- Dallas, Texas, USA
- The Dalles, Oregon, USA
- Los Angeles, California, USA
- Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
- Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
- Changhua County, Taiwan
- Hong Kong
- Tokyo, Japan
- Osaka, Japan
- Seoul, South Korea
- Mumbai, India
- Delhi, India
- Jurong West, Singapore
- Jakarta, Indonesia
- Sydney, Australia
- Melbourne, Australia
- Warsaw, Poland
- Hamina, Finland
- Madrid, Spain
- St. Ghislain, Belgium
- London, United Kingdom
- Frankfurt, Germany
- Eemshaven, Netherlands
- Zurich, Switzerland
- Milan, Italy
- Paris, France
- Tel Aviv, Israel
- Montréal, Canada
- Toronto, Canada
CDN, cache, backups, and staging environment are the common features offered by managed WordPress hosting services. Both WP Engine and Kinsta come with these features, as well as other features, of course.
Here are the features offered the two:
— Control Panel
Unlike traditional shared hosting services which commonly use a third-party control panel like cPanel and Plesk, WP Engine and Kinsta develop their own control panel. Their respective control panel is simplified and easy to use. You can use them to access the available features, make some settings, manage users, manage websites, and so on.
If you love a simple, clean interface, then Kinsta is the winner in this area as it has a cleaner, simpler control panel than WP Engine. You can watch this video to learn more the control panel of Kinsta.
Here are the screenshots of screens on WP Engine control panel and Kinsta control panel:
— Optimization Features
# Cache and CDN
CDN an cache are two optimization features offered by most managed WordPress hosting services. Be it WP Engine or Kinsta offers a server-level caching to make your website load faster. You can control the caching feature on your website from the control panel.
What about CDN?
Both WP Engine and Kinsta come with a CDN feature. They use the same third-party service for the feature: Cloudflare. The same service is also used for the cache feature on the both hosting services.
In Kinsta, you can control the CDN feature from the CDN menu on the control panel. From here, you can disable and enable the CDN, exclude certain files from CDN, and clear CDN. To monitor the CDN usage, you can go to the Analytics menu.
Kinsta itself offers different CDN capacities, depending on the plan you subscribe to. The cheapest plan, for instance, has the CDN capacity of 100GB.
What about WP Engine?
WP Engine provides no menu on its control panel dedicated to controlling the CDN feature. There is no option to enable or disable the CDN. WP Engine even doesn’t disclose how much space you have for CDN. In fact, WP Engine doesn’t explicitly mention the feature “CDN“. Instead, it uses the term of “Network cache” instead of “CDN“. Since you have no control to enable and disable the CDN feature yourself, you may need to check whether CDN has been implemented on your website.
# Early Hints
Early Hints is a useful feature that can improve the Largest Contentful Paint score (LCP) of your website. What is it?
Simply put, Early Hints can help improves the loading speed of your web pages and allows the browser to preload resources before serving the response from the server.
Kinsta offers Early Hints feature. You can enable and disable it from the Tools menu on your control panel. You can refer to this page to learn more Early Hints on Kinsta.
WP Engine doesn’t offer Early Hints yet.
# Image Optimization
When testing your site performance on PageSpeed Insights, you will be recommended to use WebP format for your images. WebP is a raster image format developed by Google aimed at replacing the existing raster image formats like JPG and PNG. WebP supports both lossy and lossless compression. More importantly, it also supports alpha transparency just like PNG.
PageSpeed Insights — and other performance testing tools — recommend WebP format as images using this format typically have a smaller file size so that they are lighter to load.
Kinsta offers a built-in image optimization feature that automatically converts your JPG and PNG images into WebP format. The conversion is performed on the CDN servers. You can access the feature from the CDN menu on the control panel.
WP Engine doesn’t offer this feature yet.
Here is the table comparing the optimization features offered by WP Engine and Kinsta.
|CDN||Yes. Capacity not disclosed.||Yes. 100 GB on the cheapest plan.|
As you can see on the above table, Kinsta offers more optimization features than WP Engine. These features are quite crucial. In addition to making your site load faster, they also allow you to save your budget as you don’t need to install an extra optimization plugin like WP Rocket anymore.
— PHP Manager
Some WordPress plugins and themes may doesn’t work properly on a certain PHP version. Considering this, it’s crucial to use a hosting service that allows you to switch between PHP versions.
Be it WP Engine or Kinsta allow you to switch from a PHP version to another. WP Engine supports three PHP versions: PHP 7.4, PHP 8.0, and PHP 8.2. To change the PHP version, you can click the PHP version number on the Overview menu.
Meanwhile, Kinsta provides a dedicated menu to changing the PHP version. You can find it under the Tools menu. There are also three PHP versions supported by Kinsta: PHP 8.0, PHP 8.1, and PHP 8.2. Kinsta doesn’t support the PHP versions older than version 8.0.
The best part of using managed WordPress services like WP Engine and Kinsta, other than faster load speed thanks to built-in optimization features, is that you can effortlessly restore your website in an emergency event as they come with a built-in backup feature. Be it WP Engine or Kinsta creates a backup of your website on a daily basis.
WP Engine stores the daily backups for 60 days, while Kinsta only stores them for 14 days (longer backup retention is available on higher plans).
Where are the backup files stored?
According to its documentation page, WP Engine uses Amazon S3 for the backup service. Meaning that your backups are stored to an external location. Meanwhile, Kinsta stores the backups on their own server. External backup service is available (Amazon S3 and Google Cloud) with an extra fee.
What if you want to have the backup files on your own local storage?
Both WP Engine and Kinsta allow you to download the backup files on your local storage in case you need to.
If your website is already running, directly applying changes without testing them first is a bit risky. It’s better to test the changes on a staging website to figure out whether they really work as you wish. WP Engine and Kinsta make it easy for you to create a staging website for a testing purpose.
In WP Engine, you can create a staging website by clicking the Add Staging menu on the main screen of the control panel.
You will be presented with five options to choose from after clicking the above menu. Simply select the Copy an existing environment to this site option to create a clone of your live website.
Same as WP Engine, Kinsta also allows you to create a staging website effortlessly. You can simply click the arrow icon on the top bar and select Create New Environment.
Kinsta offers two types of staging environments: Premium and Standard. Premium staging environment matches the resources of your live site, while Standard staging environment has lower resources. For a testing purpose, the Standard environment is more than enough, though.
Every web hosting service has built-in analytics feature to allow users to monitor the resource usage. Kinsta has a dedicated menu called Analytics. From here, you can monitor the usage of resources on your account. From hosting space usage, CDN usage, cache usage, and so on.
In addition to resource usage, the analytics feature of Kinsta also provide other stats, such as PHP and database response time, dispersion, AJAX usage, and so on.
WP Engine, meanwhile, offers no dedicated analytics menu like Kinsta. But you can still monitor basic resource usage such as disk usage and bandwidth usage.
You can view the above stats from the Overview menu on the WP Engine control panel.
SSL is a standard security feature available on nearly all web hosting services today. Be it WP Engine or Kinsta offers this feature as well. The SSL feature of WP Engine and Kinsta is provided by Cloudflare.
In addition to SSL, both WP Engine and Kinsta also offers IP blocking feature to allow you to block traffics from certain IP addresses. This feature is quite useful to combat bot, spam, or even cyberattack. In WP Engine, you can access this feature from the Web rules menu.
While in Kinsta, you can go to the IP Deny menu to block IP addresses from accessing your website.
— File Access and Database Access
Before using WP Engine or Kinsta, you better familiarize yourself with an FTP client app first as they don’t offer a built-in file manager on the control panel like cPanel and Plesk. Don’t get surprised because this is one of the characteristics of managed WordPress hosting services. Other managed hosting services like Pressable, Pressidium, to Flywheel have no built-in file manager too.
So, how to access your WordPress files if you need to edit them?
Both WP Engine and Kinsta come with FTP account manager that you can use to create FTP accounts which you can then use to access your WordPress files. You can use FTP client apps like FileZilla, WinSCP, to Cyberduck to access your files via FTP.
Alternatively, you can use DevKinsta and Local to access your WordPress files. DevKinsta is a local development tool developed by Kinsta, while Local is a local development tool developed by WP Engine. Both tools allow you to import your live websites and sync them with your local environment.
What about database access?
Be it WP Engine or Kinsta allows you to access your WordPress database via PhpMyAdmin.
Some technical details such as PHP memory limit, maximum file upload, and web server are not disclosed by most WordPress hosting services. If these details matter to you, you can take a look at the following table. We used the built-in Site Health feature of WordPress to figure out the following information.
|Supported PHP versions||7.4, 8,0, 8.2||8.0, 8.1, 8.2|
|Maximum input variables||10000||10000|
|Memory limit||512 MB||256M|
|Maximum input time||3600||300|
|Maximum file size||50 MB||128 MB|
|Post maximum size||100 MB||128 MB|
|cURL version||7.74.0 OpenSSL/1.1.1n||7.68.0 OpenSSL/1.1.1f|
Plugin and Theme Management
Being a managed WordPress hosting service, WP Engine and Kinsta automatically update your WordPress core once a new version is available. However, this doesn’t apply on themes and plugins. For themes and plugins, you need to update them yourself.
Both WP Engine and Kinsta have a dedicated feature to check the installed themes and plugins on your website. In Kinsta, you can directly update them when a new version is available.
WP Engine has no capability to update themes and plugins from the control panel like Kinsta. You need to login to your WordPress dashboard to do so. When a new version of plugin is available, you will only get a notification without being able to update it directly.
If you work with a team on a website project or more, you can make use of the built-in collaboration feature offered by WP Engine and Kinsta. You can invite them to join your project.
Kinta allows you to invite up to 10 members and there are two roles available: site administrator and site developer. Site administrator will have a full access over your website while site developer can only access the staging site.
WP Engine doesn’t disclose how many users you can invite, but you can definitely do. There are five roles available in WP Engine. Each role has different capabilities. You can refer to this page to learn more the capabilities granted to each role.
In addition, we also tested the uptime and average load time using StatusCake. The page we used for the test is powered by Elementor with the specifications as follows:
- Page size: 1.53 MB
- HTTP requests: 49
Here is the screenshot of the page:
To make the comparison fair, we didn’t activate the image optimization and code minification on Kinsta as the features are not available on WP Engine. We only activate CDN and cache.
— Testing Results on PageSpeed Insights
# WP Engine
— Testing Results on GTmetrix
# WP Engine
— Uptime and Average Load Time
In addition to testing the performance using PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix, we also tested the uptime and average load time of WP Engine and Kinsta using StatusCake. We run the test for 30 days with the check rate of 5 minutes. Here are the results:
Price is another thing that becomes our concern as some web hosting services — and digital services in general — usually has some hidden fees. As disclosed earlier on the opening section, we subscribed to the cheapest plan of both WP Engine and Kinsta to create this content.
Here is the table comparing the price of the cheapest plan of WP Engine and Kinsta, as well the features they offer.
|Price||$30/month. Initial price at $24. Learn more||$35/month. No fixed term contracts. Learn More|
|Number of visits||25,000 visits/month||25,000 visits/month|
|Hosting capacity||10 GB||10 GB|
|CDN capacity||Not disclosed||100 GB|
|Number of WP installs||1||1|
A little addition. Kinsta offers no fixed term contracts for its hosting service. What does it mean?
Simply put, you only be charged based on the duration of the service usage. For instance, you have just subscribed to a certain plan, the Started ($35/month) plan for instance, and you chose the monthly payment cycle. On the half-way, say 14 days, you decided to cancel your subscription. In such a case, you will get a refund from Kinsta for the remaining days on your contract (16 days). You can learn it more here.
Kinsta itself allows you to cancel your subscription at any time easily. You can simply go to the company settings page and click the cancel button.
Meanwhile, WP Engine doesn’t offer the same contract type as Kinsta. Its contract is fixed. You will be charged on a monthly/yearly basis and get no refund if you cancel your subscription before the expiration date. Also, to cancel your subscription, you need to make a request first.
As your online business grow, you may want to look for a more capable web hosting service. WP Engine and Kinsta are great options to switch to. The two have a great reputation in terms of performance. As you can see above, they have excellent scores on PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix.
WP Engine and Kinsta are cloud-based hosting service that adopt container technology to offer isolated resources for users. Their hosting service are bundled with features like CDN, cache, scheduled backups, and so on. Thus, you don’t need to spend extra budget on CDN service, caching plugin, or backup service, which can save a huge amount of money.
WP Engine is more popular than Kinsta as it has more users. But Kinsta is better in some ways. Kinsta has a cleaner, more intuitive control panel. It also has a more sophisticated analytics tool to allow you better understand some stats on your hosting plan. Also, Kinsta is more transparent regarding CDN and pricing. Both WP Engine and Kinsta are great WordPress hosting services, though. Highly recommended for a growing online businesses that requires a more capable hosting service.