There are a lot of questions that folks ask about quality WordPress hosting. Frankly, there are a lot of great providers to choose from, and there is no right answer, only the right answer for your WordPress.
You can go with a shared account, a VPS, or check out a managed WordPress host, like WP Engine, ZippyKid, or Pagely.
Fair Disclosure, WP Engine gainfully employs me, so I’m super biased in favor of our services. We’re all biased in the company, so we have to work a bit harder to make sure our customers have an excellent experience with us.
There are a handful of specific questions that we get on a regular basis when people are choosing our hosting plans for WordPress. I’m going to run through some of those questions to see if we can’t answer them ahead of time. However, if you’re considering other hosts, I’d invite you to compare our services to ZippyKid as well as Pagely. We’re the most expensive, but we also pack the most value.
I know WP Engine has some caching “secret sauce.” Does that mean you will configure w3 total cache for me?
Actually, no we won’t configure that plugin for you. We actually don’t allow our customers to run that on our hosting. Not because it’s a bad plugin, it’s actually a really great, really fast plugin! What we found is that when we combined W3 Total Cache with our existing, and super fast, infrastructure, sites loaded significantly slower.
In order to keep all our customer sites running as fast a possible, we simply prevent this plugin from running in our environment.
What’s the difference between WP Engine plans that offer CDN and those that don’t. Will this affect my page load times?
This is a big question, so I’ll break it down. The main difference between having CDN and not will be noticed by sites that have a large number of images. CDNs load static content like images and videos really fast. But if you’re running a super lean site, in many instances, you may never notice a difference in page load times.
The next aspect is about geography. At WP Engine, we have CDN servers on an edge network across the globe, because the greater distance a browser request has to travel for a page, Beijing to Dallas vs. LA to Dallas, for example, the greater the latency of the site. Having your site on a CDN will make a huge difference in speed for international clients.
The other difference is a simple upgrate. We turn on CDN for personal plans who request it.
What can you tell me about the custom Control panel you offer for you customers?
We have a User Portal we’ve built for you to manage your site. Developers love this because the dashboard can actually manage numerous installs from one place, so you don’t have to fool with different logins. As well, we have tools like Checkpoint and Restore, SFTP, error logs and domain management.
We also have a plugin for all our users where they can use our staging area, customize the cache and CDN, check server and error logs, and a few more advanced configurations like the HTML Regex replacement tool. We’re adding new features to this all the time based on customer feedback!
Do you fix or advise about faulty code slowing down sites?
We’re constantly running scans for ways to improve your site, and we’ve baked several improvements into WordPress that make it much more scalable, and much faster. We’ve done simple things like load the number of comments on a post less frequently to reduce server requests. There are lots of little things that we’ll do to boost your site when you migrate over to us.
And yes, there are times that we make recommendations to a customer when we believe they can get a bit more performance out of their site. Our support team are all WordPress experts who frankly are a bit too good at making WordPress installations incredibly fast. I learn things from them all the time.
You’ve mentioned security. Do your customers need to install any plugins or do anything for added security?
We take security very seriously, and have created some of the best systems in the industry to keep WordPress sites secure. What many people don’t realize about WordPress, is that by itself it’s incredibly secure.
There are more than 72 million WordPress installs across the globe, and there are rarely any hacks to actual WordPress core. Where sites get in trouble is by installing vulnerable plugins or themes. WordPress extensions, when not well-coded, can be vulnerable to hacks. TimThumb is a good example of this.
We have contracts with two amazing web security firms, Sucuri and SecTheory, who constantly run scans of our sites for malware and malicious code. When we discover something, we remove it and notify the site admin immediately. We also have a hacker guarantee. If your site gets hacked, we will pay for the security teams to fix it up.
Backups. Do you take them? How often and do your customers need to take and store backups off site.
Backups are made every 24 hours, and you can take a backup of your entire site whenever you choose. This is great to do before you push new code (or you can use the staging area), or you want to make sure you can hit the “reset” button on your site. And we just added the ability to download a .zip file of any of your backups, so you can download and store any backup of the site.
Plugins. Do you advise customer if they need to uninstall plugins or change to a different plugin author?
We have a list of curated and blacklisted plugins on our site. Again, the blacklisted plugins are usually just those that don’t mix well with our secret recipe for serving fast and super scalable WordPress sites. We do prevent some plugins from being installed, and we also have a list of curated plugins that we will add to every site that comes over to WP Engine.
From there, it’s hard for us to be experts on every single WordPress plugin that gets released, so we can’t support all of them. However, we have noticed certain issues with some plugins that we’ve resolved by either tweaking some code, or finding a different plugin.
Themes. Are there any you recommend or advise against?
Our support team is divided on this one, but the general consensus is that starting with a custom theme is the way to go for a scalable site. From here, there are opinions about where Genesis or Thesis is better, or whether you should just hardcode everything anyways.
We are in agreement that you shouldn’t download a theme from just anywhere. Googling blindly for “free wordpress themes” is a recipe for getting hacked. Make sure you download a theme from a reputable site.
THANKS for giving me the opportunity to share about the company and what we’re up to. I’d invite you to check out how fast your site is currently, and compare that to how fast it could be on WP Engine by visiting speed.wpengine.com.
And check us out on Twitter and Facebook as well. We’re constantly engaging our customers on those channels, and would love to talk with you all about how to host your WordPress sites as fast as possible!Subscribe for new Genesis Tutorials