In the world of hosting websites there are things that are not as cheap as the commercials and online ads tell people. If I want faster internet at my house, it’s not a plan with an ISP for under $14 per month. The more you want, the more it costs.

I’ve been hosting WordPress.org (self hosted) websites for about 8 years now, and I’ve used providers like Dreamhost, Godaddy, and then finally landed on WP Engine a few years ago. I love WP Engine but the love affair ended for me finally because of issues with support, service and ability to control how my websites are served to visitors. Also with how I can scale WordPress using marketing software, plugins and SaaS (Software as a Service) based services or plugins.

Cache

Caching (pronounced cashing) is what makes a webpage serve up quickly to visitors. Basically by definition Cached memory is for the purpose of speeding up things. Cache can be locally, on your device, or on the web server. However, in the last few months at the agency I work for we found that WP Engine caching was so aggressive that making quick style changes was daunting. Installing a cache plugin like WP Super Cache was on the disallowed plugins list and automatically removed. Therefore limiting the ability to control cache ourselves on our websites.

Other problems with cache on WP Engine is that they use proprietary cache software for their servers. Which is fine, until you want to run marketing software on your website, or other more advanced analytics tools. In order to disable their cache you would have to reach out to support to give them the page URL, then cache was disabled on the page to run forms for the marketing software. This is annoying when you have several landing pages to create from your marketing team for multiple campaigns. That’s about X number of requests a day to support, plus the time for them to complete the ticket so that forms can pre-populate and the software do it’s job unobstructed.

Not ideal for an agile work flow. Unless you are savvy enough to communicate to support to ask to exclude a cookie, you’re stuck waiting in line on chat multiple times a day.

Support

Over the past couple of years it’s not a secret that WP Engine has had trouble with support. But I don’t believe that it has gotten better since the first negative reviews about it. Honestly for a while it did, but as the months followed, at the agency we felt that their support staff we’re less educated about the platform that they were offering support for. There are many reasons I can understand, one mainly is cost of doing business. But we noticed scripted responses and sometimes it was a fight to get known issues resolved.

Imagine your customer’s website having problems and is paying you for hosting, and you in turn are paying for a VPS from WP Engine. The last thing you want to hear from chat support is something like, “Can we change the theme to a default to test?”

Now if this were a blog of an individual that didn’t care if the site design was changed (by switching the theme), sure, but maybe not. But this is a corporate website, it’s not a blog, and should not be run through the normal debug process on a live server. Staging environments are for this and having support do this on a live production server (live site) is not a good sign of being taken care of during peak hours. Plus, having managed WordPress sites for years, I already know how to debug. And if I reach out to support, it’s bad, and it’s not resolved by “changing the theme.” But having an account with them that is paying above the norm doesn’t get you any different treatment.

Granted customer support is a horrible job, and we honestly tried to be mindful of that as I worked as support in web for a solid year. A year that I never want to repeat. However, giving a customer certain expectations, then when they find out what they were sold was not the product they thought, that’s not good customer service. A repeatable offensive that we kept learning as their hosting environment wasn’t as advertised.

Not a recommended Provider by WordPress

Yup, not on the new list as of 2014-ish. Now the reason can be solely argued that this is because Mullenweg (co-founder of WordPress) expressed an opinion and excluded them, but not likely. Flywheel is straightforward in its use and easily scalable for agencies. It’s understanding of using Open Source applications and how this works, I believe won them a recommendation.

So why Flywheel?

Flywheel is easy is to scale. On the cPanel it’s much easier to understand and collaborate with teams. For WP Engine you have to create a SFTP credentials for each installation. For Flywheel, it’s one single SFTP access to manage your team. They call it Collaboration. I’m not a representative for Flywheel, but do prefer it after using WP Engine for last 5 years. But I’ve been using them for about a month, and while still in the honeymoon phase, I’m please with improvements and the platform scalability.

Now I know I sound a little jaded, but yeah, for good reason. I don’t pay the listed price for hosting on these providers websites. I pay at agency rates to give my customers a better monthly price, plus include my services, experience and skill. I work with the hosting companies to help them understand how WordPress websites are being used in their environments, and it’s critical that they can scale. I’m your outsourced web guru so that you can relax and focus on your business.

So the final judgement was that with WP Engine I could not scale, and I could not provide the excellence to my customers as I would like. But hey, things change, and technology moves forward. Maybe there’s a future where myself and WP Engine will get together again. Until then, I’m in love with Flywheel.

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