As someone that has been in the game as long as I have it is rare to find a hosting company that provided the level of support they did.
But over the past 8 months things have started to go downhill in a serious way.
I have gone from singing their praises, to telling everyone to avoid them.
Here is an example of just some of the things they have done-
If I could write a list of things that a web host should never do – WP Engine has done them all. They are no longer the hassle-free wordpress hosting experts they claim to be.
In this post I will share my WPEngine experience across the last 18 months and above all, apologise to all of the readers that moved their sites over to WP-Engine off the back of my advice.
I am truly sorry about all of the problems you guys have had.
So let’s get down to business and why you should avoid WP Engine.
I should also highlight that it’s very difficult to find an honest wpengine review, because they pay ridiculous affiliate commissions compared to other hosting companies.
So with that said, let’s get down to business with the only honest wpengine review on the web.
What Will I Learn?
If you search around, you will find endless WP Engine reviews that cast them in a positive light. And there is good reason for that…
But not because they are a good web host, it’s because they offer affiliates a whopping $200 commission per sale.
In other words so many people give positive reviews of WP Engine – for the money.
If I can get someone to sign up to the $29 per month plan – WPEngine will pay me a $200 commission!
That is a 589% difference between what the customer spends with WPEngine versus what WPEngine payout to an affiliate which is precisely why there are so many positive reviews for WPEngine.
Especially when competing companies usually pay out in the $60-$120 range.
So if you have ever wondered why it’s possible to find so many positive reviews for WPEngine, well – money talks. Literally.
Let’s get into the meat & cheese of the only honest WPEngine review on the web.
When I first moved over to WPEngine 18 months ago the experience was absolutely awesome.
The support team were passionate about Wordpress and it was clear they were experts at what they did. They knew Wordpress inside out and were able to resolve any issue for you whether it was with a theme, plugin or Wordpress core.
I was amazed with everything and I can’t stress enough just how awesome they were.
Unfortunately setting this standard of awesomeness has ultimately led to my continued frustration and disappointment with them for a number of reasons.
Now the support team are clueless, it’s like a bunch of people that don’t really know anything about Wordpress have taken over and are just typing a script back to you.
Some of the responses they give are comical at best.
(I’ll be sharing them throughout this post).
WPEngine pride themselves on how fast they are, so let’s start with that.
When I first moved over to WP Engine my sites load time improved by 27% which was worth an extra $16,609 per year to me.
This was one of the main reasons I moved to WP-Engine, but over time that has seriously degraded-
To put that in perspective to login and approve 1 comment it would take a total of 2 minutes & 38 seconds.
For every comment on the blog I wanted to approve, it took 54 seconds. That is a serious problem when you get as many comments as I do.
Basically whenever the site has to read from or write to the MYSQL database the server cannot handle it. All of this started in the first week of May 2013.
Continuing with the trend of database problems I started to get 502/504 bad gateway errors on the front end and back end of the site which started in the middle of May 2013.
As the months went on the problems got worse until 5 months later in October 2013 the site was completely unworkable. This was also the period when their support started to seriously degrade.
Instead of taking ownership of issues and fixing them like they used to, they consistently palm you off with irrelevant excuses & finger pointing.
The 502/504 bad gateway errors were causing a number of issues-
First of all it was taking my readers nearly 20 seconds to load posts on the blog. Even with their bespoke front end caching technology – which causes its own set of problems.
If shaving just 1.848 seconds off my load time was worth an extra $16,609 to me a year, imagine how much money I was losing when load times increased 4 times over to 20 seconds.
Even my $0.99 per month host could load the site in 6.620 seconds.
Secondly, anytime I was trying to write or edit a post I was getting the error…
“Connection lost. Saving has been disabled until you’re reconnected. We’re backing up this post in your browser, just in case.”
This means that my local machine was losing connection with the server and timing out completely. This happened every single time I tried to edit, write or publish a post.
My previous $0.99 per month host didn’t have that problem.
On top of all of the above I had noticed that the Time To First Byte (TTFB) had increased to over 1 second.
This is the amount of time it takes to receive the first byte of data from the server after requesting a URL in your browser.
That is before the Wordpress application, theme, plugins or files start to load. Bear that point in mind throughout this post as those are the things they always tried to blame.
This is also one of the key things that Google uses to determine site speed and search rankings.
Now I should point out when it comes to servers & hardware – I know my stuff.
I usually play dumb with most things to see if people are honest and the WP Engine support team have failed that test at every hurdle.
It was clear to me there was a bottleneck with the MYSQL database somewhere and 502/504 errors are usually because the server has run out of resources to process the request.
These are the things the WP Engine team tried to blame for the huge decreases in site speed and huge increases in 502/504 errors.
The first thing was that outdated plugins will slow your site down. Here is the exact quote-
Which is funny, because the site had been using the exact same plugin versions when it was lightning fast.
But apparently because there were updates available to the plugins that slows your entire site down.
This table was part of the OIOPublisher banner advertising plugin that I use to serve ads on the site that would log stats when a reader loaded a page on the front end of the website.
They blamed the size of the table & the plugin itself, even though the plugin wasn’t getting called on the backend where most of the issues were.
I also pointed out to them that other much bigger blogs used the exact same plugin and were still lightning fast so it was unlikely the plugin was the issue.
I had also been running the exact same version of plugin for months without an issue – so on top of the above, it just didn’t make sense that was the issue.
But it was an easy issue for them to blame. So I did what they asked of me and it should come as no surprise that didn’t fix the issue.
It took them nearly 2 weeks to get to that after opening the initial ticket. What happened to all of the Worpdress experts?
One of the things I continued to ask support was how much actual CPU/RAM resource was allocated to each customers site.
This seems to be a very sticky question for WP Engine – a question I have asked over and over and over again, I even asked the co-founder to his face at Affiliate Summit.
The question either gets completely ignored or answered in a very vague way. If you are a current WP Engine customer ask the question, it’s funny watching them squirm with the answer.
Right from the beginning I had suspected they had overloaded servers and were unable to cope with their rapid growth.
After 2 weeks of going back and to with excuses they finally admitted the server was overloaded and they were going to move my site to a different server to see if that helps.
Problem solved right? Wrong.
When they moved me over to a new server not only was the site still slow, but now I had no access to FTP and users could not login.
Even I was locked out of my own admin area.
This was because when they moved the site to a new server, they proxied over the old IP to the new IP internally so there would be no downtime on the front end which is a fantastic solution – if it worked.
First of all WP Engine installs a plugin called Limit Login. They don’t tell you they have done this, it doesn’t appear in your list of plugins and you can’t change the settings. It is completely invisible to you as the website owner.
So every time a user logged in, because of how they proxied over the IP it appeared that every single user was logging in from the same IP and performing a brute force attack on the site which locked everyone out including me.
Luckily I had the knowledge to get into PHPMyAdmin and manually change the setting in the database to unlock it so at least I could access the admin area of my site.
At the same time I had no FTP access – it took nearly 5 days of going back and to with them to get a resolution. If I didn’t have the knowledge to unblock my admin access myself, I would have also been without admin access for 5 days as well.
As you can see I was starting to lose my patience with them. Even when you told them exactly what was wrong & exactly what needed to change to fix things – they still argued the point.
Until eventually they realised I was spot on with the solution, the first time I told it to them. Never mind the 3rd, 4th & 5th time.
So at this point, the site is on a new server, it is still slow, I had no FTP access for 5 days and if it wasn’t for my manual intervention I wouldn’t have had WP-Admin access for 5 days either.
Then just a few days later-
The blog had just hit the most popular story of the week on Inbound.org which was driving a lot of targeted traffic, if the site was actually online.
It was down for a total of 3 hours during what would of been a record setting day of traffic.
So much for the new server huh!
Less than 10 days later the site was down again reporting the same 502/503 bad gateway issues that were first reported to them over 6 months earlier on May 16th.
Continuing on the trend of excuses, this time they tried to blame the number of comments in the database.
So without my permission the WP Engine team took it upon themselves to clear out all of the spam comments on the live database without taking a backup first.
The problem with that is an awful lot of you guys get flagged as spam when you’re not, so I go through the spam comments manually each month to approve the genuine ones.
Plus after deleting my live data without my prior permission or taking a backup, it didn’t actually fix the problem! I was not a happy bunny.
Then they tried to blame the fact that the site was getting too many spam comments and was slowing the entire server down.
I checked the logs myself and the site was only getting 1-2 spam comments per minute. When I publish a new post I get more genuine comments per minute than that!
Even a budget web host could handle that load!
The solution – install a captcha form to stop all the spammers. Ironically the Wordpress & security experts were unaware I could solve 1,000 captchas for just $1.39 while I’m asleep.
All that adding a captcha form does is inconvenience genuine users, it certainly doesn’t stop spammers.
All they needed to do was put the same time & effort into resolving problems as they put into creating excuses.
At this point over 7 months after opening the first ticket about the speed problems, my patience was exhausted.
I flew half way around the world to Affiliate Summit West in Las Vegas to find the WP Engine co-founder Ben Metcalfe and explained all of the issues I have had.
He assured me that he would take control of the problems and resolve them all, not only that but he would give me 6 months of hosting free of charge.
Awesome! I was confident that everything was going to get fixed. Unfortunately the very next morning the site was down for nearly an hour.
After Affiliate Summit was over WPEngine got in touch with me to resolve the issues as quickly as possible.
Here is the full email conversation that we had – notice how they dodge the resource question, again.
At last they had their best guys working on the problem, after 7 months of complaining and flying half way around the world!
I could sit back in confidence knowing that all of my issues would be resolved at long last.
I was wrong.
It turned out that their ‘top guys’ were just as clueless about how servers and Wordpress works as anyone else.
Instead of trying to blame a plugin, this time they tried to blame the .htaccess file
Their top tech guy didn’t understand what basic level .htaccess code did. I don’t think I need to say anything more than that.
During this period I also got a notification they had migrated my site to another server, again.
This time they had identified that the site was using over 50% of the servers resources.
Which is funny because that is precisely what would be causing the 502/504 bad gateway errors I had reported to them 8 months earlier.
And just like the last time they migrated the site to a new server, they failed to check if everything was working properly which it wasn’t.
Giving their top tech guys credit where credit is due, they came back with a list of possible reasons the site was performing so badly.
Well not really, they just installed a free plugin which gives you a basic overview of things.
The same guy that didn’t understand the basics of .htaccess was also trying to blame a plugin called MShots but he couldn’t locate it on my blog.
The reason he couldn’t locate it is because it’s part of Wordpress core functionality straight out of the box.
You would expect a Wordpress expert to know what is a plugin and what is a core Wordpress function.
Anyway we continued to do the dance, but dancing gets very tiring after doing it non-stop for 8 months.
That was the last I heard from support about the speed issues. They didn’t even bother to reply to the ticket after that.
After 6 days had passed and the site continued to be slow and/or unavailable I was getting flocks of complaints from readers. Enough was enough.
I sent this email to the co-founder & the rest of the top brass at WP Engine
Guess what happened next?
Absolutely nothing. Support never replied and neither did the co-founder who had promised to my face that he would resolve all of the issues and give me 6 months free hosting as compensation.
So after 8 months of the same issues, pathetic excuses from support, flying half way around the world and speaking to the co-founder directly the ‘Wordpress Experts’ couldn’t be arsed to reply.
That tells you everything you need to know about the company, the co-founder & how they treat their customers.
Do you trust your business with someone that handles themselves like that?
I noticed a few days later that there was a keyword stuffed link to the WP Engine homepage in my blogs footer.
That was strange because I hadn’t put it there and it wasn’t visible in the footer.php file of my theme.
So how on earth was a link to the WP Engine homepage appearing on my blog?
If you take a look in the very bottom left corner of the screenshot below you can see it for yourself, they did a very good job at hiding it!
How sneaky is that? They were dynamically inserting a keyword stuffed link to their homepage at the server level. I couldn’t manually remove it!
Ben responded pretty quickly and promised to follow up with a call-
I told Ben not to worry and to just give me a call on Monday.
But in true WP Engine style that call never came, even when I followed up via email – that was ignored as well.
What makes this even worse is the fact that genuine businesses that have had their websites penalised or deindexed from Google completely for less than that.
But WP Engine still rank for the target term!
It has taken me over 20 months of hard work to build up my RSS subscribers. It took WP Engine minutes to wipe out 60% of that effort.
That is 12 months hard work building my RSS subscriber base completely wiped out without a blink of an eye from WP Engine.
Around the start of April a reader emailed me to let me know my RSS feed wasn’t working. When I took a look at the source code of the feed I noticed this message-
“The used table type doesn’t support FULLTEXT indexes”
At that time I was actually sat with one of the head developers from the BBC. He took a look at it and told me exactly what was wrong.
Basically WP Engine had changed their MYSQL configuration to disable full text indexing – which my RSS feed relied on to function properly.
They had made this configuration change to the server without any kind of customer notification.
So with that knowledge in mind and confirming that was the issue with a few Google searches I opened a support ticket.
All they needed to do to fix the issue was enable full text indexing on the MYSQL database again. Its a 60 second job for anyone that knows what they are doing.
I told them what the exact issue was and what needed to change for it to be fixed, instead of just fixing it they continued with their usual line of excuses and palming the issue off.
Here is a list of excuses they came up with for that-
The level of stupidity displayed here is beyond what I’m able to put into words. None of those excuses had ANYTHING to do with MYSQL.
They might as well have said your RSS feed is broken because you brushed your teeth this morning.
What they should of said is sorry we changed our server configuration without telling you which broke your RSS feed & wiped out 12 months of your hard work. However we have now re-enabled that for your account.
Here is the full support ticket with them about that issue – which in true WP Engine fashion they just ignored and stopped replying to. At least they are consistent in one thing!
The funny thing is when I eventually moved to my new host and told them about the problem, they fixed it in less than 2 minutes.
Take a guess at what they did to fix it? They enabled fulltext MYSQL indexing on the table. If you don’t know anything about server configs I can’t stress how basic that is.
I wouldn’t like to put a $$$ value on what that specific issue cost me with WP Engine.
It took 20 months to build it to that level and WP Engine wiped out 12 months of that effort without a blink of the eye, which is the WPEngine way apparently!
When I spoke to the WP Engine co-founder at Affiliate Summit he told me they would give me 6 months free hosting as compensation for the problems I have had.
That never actually happened so 4 months after he made that promise I opened a ticket to see what was going on.
Yet again, that ticket went unanswered and was actually marked as solved the next day.
Turns out the co-founders promises are worth nothing. That is the kind of person you are trusting your business with when using WP Engines hosting services.
At the same time I had the ticket open about the RSS feed issue and asking about the co-founder’s promise of 6 months hosting – WP Engine decided to terminate my account.
Instead of taking 2 minutes to fix the problem they created when they changed their server configuration without notification and keeping their promise they decided to just cancel my contract with them.
They didn’t even provide a reason for that. When I asked for the reason they said to see the first communication which didn’t provide a reason. Such is the WP Engine support merry go round.
They did this on the 18th of April with 7 days notice. Except in the UK the 18th-21st was a public bank holiday. They terminated my account with just 3 working days notice.
That was also during a period I was packing and planning to move country. Suddenly I had to drop everything, find a reliable new host and move the entire site.
The knock on effect of that was the time I had planned to spend seeing friends & family for the last time, was spent running around cleaning up their mess.
You would think that once WP Engine terminates your account and your website is no longer hosted by them, that would be the end of the problems.
But they weren’t finished with the clown act just yet!
They terminated my account as promised on the 24th of April 2014. Then on the 25th April they took money from my credit card for the next month of service.
The service they had just terminated. So even though I was no longer a customer with them, they continued to take money directly from my bank account.
Not only that but they actually hijacked the money for 10 days! Given all of the costs of moving to a new host I could have done with that money in my account.
But we have established the WP Engine doesn’t care about their customers or your business so that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
When I was at Affiliate Summit I spoke to a bunch of people about my problems with WP Engine and I was surprised to hear what other people had to say about WP Engine. It wasn’t great!
I also knew that my friend from MyTanFeet was having similar problems with them.
I felt bad because he moved his hosting to WP Engine based on my recommendation.
If you moved your hosting to WP Engine based on my previous advice I can’t stress how truly sorry I am for that!
Here is just some of the feedback I got from my readers about WP Engine when I mentioned the problems in last month’s income report-
As you can see the verdict is pretty much unanimous.
When WP Engine terminated my hosting I was in a desperate situation.
I reached out to some people for advice as I didn’t know which hosting company I could trust and Terry Kyle quite literally saved the day.
He also runs WPXHosting which competes directly with WP Engine & his support team took care of everything for me.
Not only did they move the site, they fixed all of the problems that WP Engine couldn’t.
Remember the RSS issue that had the WPEngine team stumped even though I told them exactly how to fix it?
That took them 2 minutes to sort out. They also took care of optimising the blogs load times & setup the CDN for me. It was a truly painless experience during a moment of panic & desperation mid-moving country.
I cannot thank them enough for that! That level of service & support reminds me of the early days of WP-Engine. Take a look at my full WPX Hosting review to learn more.
I’ve also had some amazing experiences with Kinsta lately so I highly recommend you read through my Kinsta review before making any decisions.
So on top of the great service & support that WPXHosting has offered so far, what else do they do offer that WP Engine don’t?
Not only are they cheaper, they offer a huge range of features that WP Engine don’t.
One of the main ones is email support. If you host your site with WP Engine you need to buy additional hosting just for your email! That is not the case with WPXHosting.
I suggest you take a look at my full WPX Hosting review to learn more.
However price & features aren’t everything – one of my main concerns is site speed, after all website speed optimization is money in the bank!
So who is actually faster – WP Engine or WPXHosting? There is only one way to find out!
I ran a series of speed tests before the site was moved from WP Engine & then repeated the same tests after it was moved to WPXHosting.
I tested the home page, my top 100 blog tutorial and loading WP-Admin. I chose these pages because they were either the most visited, the most resource intensive or a combination of both.
I also tested each of these pages from the USA & from Amsterdam to make sure the site loaded quickly on both sides of the pond.
I used Pingdom (P) and WebPageTest (W) to test each of the 3 pages from both locations to be 100% confident in the results.
|Page||USA (P)||Amsterdam (P)||USA (W)||Amsterdam (W)|
|Page||USA (P)||Amsterdam (P)||USA (W)||Amsterdam (W)|
Using the WP Engine results as a benchmark, the table below shows if WPXHosting was faster or slower.
So if you see -20% that means WPXHosting was 20% faster. If you see +20% that means WP Engine was 20% faster.
|Page||USA (P)||Amsterdam (P)||USA (W)||Amsterdam (W)|
As you can see, it is quite clear that WPXHosting is considerably faster than WP Engine.
On average WPXHosting is 18.77% faster than WP Engine.
Not only that but WPXHosting only costs me $24.99 a month compared to WP Engine’s $212.00 in March.
WP Engine has a strange pricing system that changes based on how many visitors you have. I was on their $99 a month plan that allows 100,000 visits per month.
After that you pay $1 per 1,000 visitors so I had to pay an extra $113 in March.
And when they say 100,000 visitors they don’t actually mean 100,000 visitors. What they actually mean is 100,000 page requests, which is open to abuse.
For example I could buy 20,000 visitors from Fiverr for $5 and send them to your website. That would cost you $20 but it only cost me $5. Or I could just load up Scrapebox & have full control over your bill.
Either way WPXHosting is 18% faster & 76% cheaper than WPEngine.
Oh and the support team actually knows what they are doing which helps.
I recently published an updated case study to find the fastest Wordpress hosting that takes both WPEngine & WPXHosting through 7 rigerous tests.
The results might surprise you.
It is a shame to see the demise of WP Engine in this manner. Like I said at the start of the article they were one of the best hosting companies I had ever worked with by quite a stretch.
In my corporate career I have dealt with a range of hosting companies from the likes of RackSpace to HostGator – none of them could stand up to the service & support WP Engine used to offer.
In my opinion when WP Engine first started it was a business founded out of passion & innovation. That was clear from the level of support and knowledge displayed when I first moved over.
However I think they grew too quickly over the past couple of years which has caused them major problems.
Now instead of dealing with actual Wordpress experts, you’re dealing with customer service staff that have had minor Wordpress training & fail to understand the basics.
Last year Heather Brunner became COO which probably led to changes in how the company operates. Is it a coincidence the service & support started to degrade shortly after?
Investors don’t care about your business or your website, they only care about 1 thing – profit. It is also worth noting the passionate co-founder left the company shortly after that investment.
It feels like they have undergone serious cost cutting exercises to the demise of the service & support. I’ve worked in a number of companies where this has happened and it has never turned out well.
There is a certain irony in that!
My advice is if you are a WP Engine customer – move your business away from them as quickly as possible.
My experience with WPXHosting has been awesome so far – hopefully they don’t follow WP Engines lead.
The WPEngine team have published a couple of responses on their blog this week.
The first one was very disappointing and just the usual marketing/PR propaganda with no actual substance or ownership behind it.
Anyone with any experience in marketing & PR will see straight through that.
The second one had a bit more substance to it but still failed to address the majority of issues highlighted.
For example they continue to dodge questions about-
So all in all, the responses don’t really address any of the issues highlighted. Unless you accept ‘growth’ as a universal answer to all of that.
It would be nice to see them take some level of ownership & responsibility for the damage they have done to their customers businesses – I doubt that is going to happen.
I also asked them to refund all of the money I had paid to them & everyone that I had referred to them as an affiliate – they ignored that as well.
There is something else that they do to your website without your permission or telling you.
When you move your site over to WPEngine they make serious WPEngine specific changes to core Wordpress files.
They don’t tell you what they have changed or which files they have made those changes in.
But what this means is when you try to move your site away from WPEngine, you are going to have a hard time getting it to work properly on another host.
I’m currently investigating this further but I will update in due course with my findings.
Added on 28th May 2014
One of the comments from Joseph pointed out that WPEngine are listed as a client of Linode who are a cloud hosting company.
It appears that WPEngine are just renting out cloud servers from Linode and then reselling them as premium hosting.
If you take a look at the price plans you can get an awful lot more bang for your buck than you can with WPEngine.
Not only that but you can have your own dedicated environment that won’t be overloaded with other clients paying a premium price.
After reading about the WPEngine infrastructure you would expect they actually have their own infrastructure.
But it seems that they are nothing but glorified shared hosting resellers with flashy branding and premium pricing rather than the hosting experts they claim to be.
If you want to help, please share this article on your blog
I have taken down the original WPEngine review that I published because it was no longer relevant after publishing this.
However, if you want to check out my original review before all of the problems, just click the link below.