As vsellis.com has continued to grow the need for a very solid hosting platform has become increasingly important. After maintaining my own server for a few years, and not being particularly good at it, I started looking around for managed hosting. About that time, friend Aaron Brazel started work with a specialized WordPress host, Austin based WP Engine.
WP Engine, as described on their site:
“We created WP Engine because we needed it ourselves. WordPress is the best blogging software and community on Earth, we just want to host it. We’re a small team in Austin, TX dedicated to building the best experience possible”
and their homepage proudly states:
“We make WordPress fast, secure, and scalable by hosting your site on our rock-solid platform.”
That about sums it up, the months I’ve been with them so far have been nothing short of impressive.
The platform is solid, the servers fast and customer service responsive; even going above and beyond the call of duty.
In another post, we looked at some website hosting options and learned how hosting impacts our sites. The take away was that quality hosting is critical to your site, and by its very nature, can give a boost to your site traffic.
But let’s back up… how and why did I decide to put VSEllis on WP Engine?
To begin with, if Yoda were here he’d say to me “a server administrator you are not.” I know enough to be dangerous, which means I can get myself into trouble more easily than I can get out of it.
Server management is not core to what I do, as it’s not to most of you. But like you, I want my site to be up, be secure, be uber-fast and otherwise be hands-off. So outsourcing the management of my site hosting was a necessary decision so I can focus on the other stuff.
I’ve also started including “community” as an important criterion of the products and services I choose to recommend. WP Engine doesn’t specifically have a community, but their team is well embedded in the WordPress community. Aaron is a core WordPress contributor and author of the WordPress Bible, and Ben Matclfe has been around WordPress since before it was called WordPress! So not only are they invested in the community, they know their stuff extremely well.
I spent time with Aaron learning about the highly redundant (borderline excessive but it’s a good thing) backups (and I still use BackUp Buddy too), discussing scalability, security and all of the nuances I could about WP Engine. I was quickly convinced that I’d found hosting nirvana for a WordPress site. In fact, I started to think that the $49 price tag for a single site was quite a deal.
A few WP Engine features I’d like to point out include:
- The platform is specifically optimized for WordPress
- They manage security VERY tightly
- They’ve created a very scalable infrastructure for WordPress
- They provide a staging environment
- They’ll help you migrate your site
- They do more backups than I can remember
- Included CDN (content delivery network) <- Freaking awesome
- Curated plugins for things like caching, etc.. are a part of the package
- (see more at WP Engine.com)
Before migrating my site I rolled out the new VSEllis.com theme you see now and took snapshots of the homepage load times. Then, I migrated to WP Engine and ran the same test using Firebug.
Note: No other changes were made besides hosting.
The result of the homepage load times test was significant (screen shot’s below):
- Old server (not shared hosting): 5.7 sec (on load) – Not particularly good
- WP Engine: 2.17 sec (on load). More than 2x as fast.
With a few more tweaks to the theme, I should be able to get that down to below 2 sec, possibly even 1, but the point is that hosing, by itself, made my site more than twice as fast. I also noticed about a 10 – 20% boost in search traffic, validating for me what I have heard about Google paying attention to server response times and rewarding sites that can handle the traffic.
Now, if you are thinking, “Hey! I pay $5 a month for hosting, $49 is a big jump” I’d encourage you to take a closer look at the benefits from speed to security. If you’re running a small personal blog it’s probably not the right choice for you. But for any business or professional blogger, WP Engine is a no-brainer and a great investment in your business at that price. One big outage or site loss and you may wish you had better hosting.
If you have any questions about WP Engine leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them, or at the very least I’ll reach out to Aaron and get an answer for you.