WordPress is the backbone that supports millions of websites, so it's not surprising that dozens of Web service providers focus on hosting one of the world's most popular content management systems—WP Engine among them. Unfortunately, WP Engine (starting at $29 per month) isn't a beacon of WordPress hosting excellence, as it doesn't offer much beyond the basics. That's not to say that it's a total dud: WP Engine offers attractive, basic features like unlimited monthly data transfers, automatic daily backups, automatic plug-in updates, and malware scanning. But it's simply outclassed by the more versatile 1&1, our top pick for WordPress hosting.
WP Engine offers four WordPress hosting plans, all of which boast unlimited monthly data transfers, automatic daily backups, and malware scanning. They're of the managed variety, so WP Engine's technicians give you installation the white-glove treatment. The plans are all Linux-based, so if you want Windows-based hosting, you must look elsewhere.
The most basic plan, Personal (starting at relatively pricey $29 per month), supports one WordPress installation, 25,000 monthly visitors, and a scant 10GB of storage. This is the plan I used to test the service. Professional (starting at $99 per month) offers 10 WordPress installations, 100,000 visitors, and 20GB of storage. Business (starting at $249 per month) has 25 WordPress installations, 400,000 visits, and 30GB of storage. Premium offers 150 WordPress installations, 1 million visits, and 150GB to 300GB of storage. You have to call for pricing for the Premium plan, as you must for the customizable Enterprise plan.
Competitor 1&1, on the other hand, has no such cap on visitors and has a $7.99 per month starting price. In fact, its $14.99 per month Unlimited plan boasts unlimited WordPress installations, storage, and email. WP Engine tasks you with signing up with a third-party to get email, a noteworthy omission.
A speed-enhancing content delivery network (CDN) is included with the Professional, Business, and Enterprise plans, but not with the basic Personal plan. If you'd like to add a CDN to the Personal package, you'll need to pay an additional $19.95. Rivals Pagely and Pressable offer CDNs at every managed hosting level.
The WP Engine Experience
Like Pressable, WP Engine is a managed hosting environment specifically designed for WordPress installations and plug-ins. In fact, you don't need to install WordPress as you do with most other Web hosts; the content management system comes preinstalled. It was refreshing to open my introductory email, view my log-in credentials, and then get started without any additional setup.
In terms of creating content, WP Engine functions as any other self-hosted WordPress installation. It's a breeze to create posts, pages, and galleries.
WP Engine is compatible with a wide range of WordPress plug-ins. That said, the company maintains a small list of plug-ins that it doesn't support, due to their negative performance impact or duplication of built-in WP Engine features.
Unlike 1&1, WP Engine doesn't offer traditional Web hosting, so you can't upload your Linux- or Windows-based non-WordPress site and related apps. The upside is that WP Engine automates many functions, including daily site backups and plug-in updates. It also features proprietary Evercache technology that combines caching and proxy servers to make pages quickly load. The Staging Area is pretty cool, too. It takes a snapshot of your website so you can tinker with pages without affecting the real site.
Given these useful features, the holes in WP Engine's offering seem all the more glaring. In addition to not offering email, it also doesn't sell domains (your default URL is in the format of http://name.wpengine.com) you need to sign up with a third-party company like GoDaddy for those features. I can't help but wonder how many potential users don't come back once they've gone to a do-it-all Web hosting service to sign up for a domain name and email.
WP Engine safeguards your site with daily malware scans and a firewall that's updated daily to block the latest threats. The Web host states that if your site gets hacked, it'll repair the damage free of charge.
I contacted WP Engine several times during testing—early morning and midday—to get a sense of its support team's effectiveness. I called to discover how to install new WordPress themes, and then used the Web chat to contact a representative who would explain CDNs. The team answered both questions, and a few miscellaneous others, accurately and quickly, after negligible wait times.
Unfortunately, toll-free telephone support is only available during limited hours: Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST. WP Engine compensates with 24/7 email and ticketing support, so you aren't totally left out in the cold if you can't call within those hours.
In addition, WP Engine offers a healthy 60-day money-back guarantee that's far superior to Pressable's 15-day trial period. That said, InMotion has a very generous 90-day money-back guarantee that bests most other Web hosts' refund policies.
Decent, but There Are Better Options
WP Engine offers a basic level of managed WordPress functionality with some useful features, but the visitor and data caps, as well as the lack of email, domain names and Windows servers, hurt its rating. For a more complete WordPress hosting experience, check out 1&1, PCMag's Editors' Choice in Wordpress hosting.