Several of my PWDA Pro group members are rabid fans of WPEngine, saying it’s the only host you should consider for serious WordPress-powered websites.
I thought I knew better, as I had moved this site over to a dedicated server on HostGator a while ago (costing $174 per month).
Why Did I Choose a Dedicated Server?
I know that virtual hosting or cloud hosting is all the rage right now, as (in principle) that setup can allocate extra resources on the fly to sites that need more bandwidth. So, in theory, a dedicated box is either going to be over-utilised or under-utilised, neither of which is ideal.
In practice, however, resources don’t move around a cloud-hosting solution as smoothly as you’d imagine. I liked the idea that having a dedicated server means you can reserve that redundancy for your own site, so you know the extra memory and bandwidth are there if you need them.
HostGator were happy to help me out with a dedicated box. But what I didn’t realise is the big downside of what going “dedicated” means.
A dedicated server means you have complete control over it. Great, but it also means that everything is your responsibility. So unless you’re a seasoned system administrator, it really isn’t something you should even consider.
I didn’t realise that, until this happened. My site practically disappeared for over 12 hours! When I looked at it, I saw a “database error”. My WordPress couldn’t talk to MySQL, for some reason.
As soon as I noticed, I contacted HostGator support (which I have to say is very good) they rebooted the server, and it was all back up.
All was well, until the same thing happened again the following night. Again, the site was offline for almost everyone for 12 hours. Not good! Particularly considering the problems I had with my site being unavailable thanks to 123-reg losing my domain name for a few weeks last year.
That blunder (in February 2013) cost me about 2/3 of my website traffic, which I’m still suffering from, as you can see below (blue line is the last 12 months, orange line is the previous 12 months). So you can see why I can’t tolerate further downtime. Here’s the rub… HostGator support told me, quite correctly, that because I had a dedicated server, I was responsible for everything that happened on that server. I didn’t realise that when I placed the order! I thought that, by paying more, I’d enjoy a similar level of oversight by HostGator’s expert sys admins. But no, that isn’t the case.
Moving to WPEngine
One vital lesson I’ve learned in web design, in business, in life generally, is that important things should be done by experts. As the saying goes…
“If you think hiring an expert sounds expensive, wait till you hire an amateur!”
So I listened to my team, in particular Jonathan Perez, who has been working with me for over 3 years, and who has become somewhat of a WordPress and Genesis guru.
So I hired Jonathan to do the migration for me, which he carried out perfectly in 24 hours.
The new hosting costs LESS than my old dedicated server, plus it takes advantage of WPEngine’s CDN (content delivery network), which has a dramatic impact on speed.
How fast your site loads has a significant effect on your visitor’s experience, and can also impact search engine ranking!
In addition to improved maintenance, security, updates, plugins etc. etc., check out the improvement in performance!
- On the HostGator dedicated box, it took 4.557 seconds for my home page to load (for a new visitor).
- On WPEngine, using their CDN, it now loads in 3.855 seconds: that’s 15% less time, and could make the site feel noticeably quicker and nicer to use.
- One of the most important metrics is “Start Render” — how long it takes before content starts to appear on the screen. That now takes 17% less time.
Time will tell what impact this speed increase has on visitor metrics and SEO ranking.