Can you envision what 27 percent of the internet looks like?
The internet is made up of over a billion (that’s billion with a B) websites, and a whopping 27 percent of those sites are powered by WordPress. WordPress owns over half of the CMS (content management system) market, and, it’s worth repeating, WordPress powers just over a quarter of the billion-plus sites online.
If you are fluent in CSS, HTML5, and PHP, you know the joy of crafting code that makes a beautiful site a pleasure to visit. For the rest of us, the coding aspect goes straight over our heads. That’s where WordPress comes in—but that’s not the whole story.
CMS software like WordPress allows people like me to create entire websites quickly with a no code/low code approach. Everything you see on this page, and everything on this site, is powered by WordPress.
But what powers WordPress?
In this post, I'll be exploring the hosting service WP Engine and discussing the reasons why ClydeBank Media relies on WP Engine to host our web presence.
This post is part of a new ongoing series where we break down the exact tools and techniques we use at ClydeBank Media that have helped transform our company from a basement operation into a successful small business.
Small business owners, managers, and entrepreneurs of all types are invited to use these same tools and concepts to write their own small business success stories.
More of a visual learner? Do you respond "TL:DR" to blog posts? Skip right to the video, or continue reading for the whole story.
First, what is managed hosting?
Managed hosting is hosting that is, well, managed.
The difference between managed hosting and traditional hosting was described beautifully and succinctly by Amber Bigler Newman at the Shoretel blog. Amber writes that managed solutions are like having water supplied through your municipal utility:
When you turn on the tap, water comes out. Sometimes you need a little water, sometimes you need a lot. Each month you are billed by the utility for the amount of water you used. You don’t ever think about water storage or the pipelines to your house. The utility worries about those things for your whole community.
A hosted solution is more like owning or renting a water tank that is located off of your property, but connects to your home.
The water tank is only for your use, but you are responsible for figuring out how much water you will need. You are responsible for filling the tank and you are responsible for maintaining the pipes. It’s pretty much like having a water tank on your lawn, but it is somewhere else. You pay for all of the water that goes into the tank, whether you use it or not. If you use too much and run out of water, you are out of luck until you refill the tank or get a bigger one. Make sense? You could pay someone else to take care of your water tank for you.
WP Engine is a managed hosting solution, so that means they do all the work.
At ClydeBank Media, we use WP Engine to host our web presence, but it wasn’t the service we started with. We started with GoDaddy, but the more I learned about WP Engine, the more I realized it was a better fit for our hosting needs.
The following list of WP Engine features are the reasons I made the switch to WP Engine, and if you use WordPress to power your site, why it may be a good choice for your business as well (especially with a discount).
1. Speed Means an SEO Boost
There is nothing more frustrating than waiting for a site to load.
We don’t want our audience to find something better to do while they grow old waiting for our pages to load. Additionally, search engines like Google place a high value on page delivery speed, especially for mobile searches.
There are a million factors that go into a developed SEO strategy, but a technical base of speedy delivery starts with your choice of hosting service. Businesses today rely on SEO to play a big part in their discoverability and growth strategy, and ClydeBank Media is no different.
WP Engine uses dedicated servers that are optimized for WordPress.
This pairing means faster page delivery and shorter load times. For every second of load time, your page hemorrhages visitors unwilling to wait. And why should they wait? This is the 21st century. If your site can’t deliver great content quickly, there are a dozen more that probably can.
At first, our site was hosted with GoDaddy, which didn’t present us with any issues speed-wise that I noticed. That being said, one of the reasons I made the switch to WP Engine is the peace of mind in knowing that my hosting service is optimized for my CMS.
2. Next Level Support
If I haven’t mentioned it before, I am by no means a tech expert. And by no means, I mean by no means.
I haven’t run into any serious issues with our site (knock on wood) but I have reached out to WP Engine’s support on more than one occasion to troubleshoot formatting issues and other small glitches in my site design and structure.
It turned out that these issues were largely my fault, or the fault of multiple WordPress plugins not working correctly with each other.
In every case, not only was there a support representative ready and available to assist me, but they were always knowledgeable and willing to walk me through the process to the best of their ability. Additionally, I have never experienced a wait time longer than zero minutes. Impressive to say the least.
There is no way that every person's experience with WP Engine support can be that painless, but for me so far I haven't had to wait at all.
In many cases, the support rep that I talked to was also knowledgeable about WordPress features and functionality, which meant that they were able to walk me through the basic steps of remedying the problems I had created for myself. Did I mention I am not a tech expert?
While I never had a bad experience with GoDaddy, I never had my hand held by a WordPress-fluent support rep when I reached out to them either.
3. Play in the Sandbox
Hosting with WP Engine comes with a full staging environment, which is the one feature I had never realized I desperately needed.
We regularly refresh our blog content, which is easy through the WordPress CMS dashboard. Log in, modify the content, and press update. The issue comes when we decide to make serious structural changes to our site or to roll out new features.
Instead of testing with the community-facing side of our site, a sandbox staging environment allows us to duplicate our entire site. This copy can then be edited to our hearts’ content to ensure that the functionality delivers everything we want it to, along with looking and feeling great.
These changes can happen at our leisure—if you are updating a site that is already live, there is a crunch to get things right to minimize the number of visitors who see a shabby work in progress. With the sandbox version, once all the puzzle pieces fit together the way we want them to, the site is easily “turned on” and published live.
This was particularly effective while we were setting up the ClydeBank Media shop. We use Woo Commerce to power our online shop, and while I was figuring out the best features of that particular WordPress plugin to use, it was a relief to be able to take my time and get it done right from inside the safety of the staging environment.
4. Easy SFTP User Setup
FTP access is the part of the hosting process that I never wanted to muck around with. FTP stands for file transfer protocol, and it is the method by which the files that make up your site are transferred between your computer and the server on which your site is hosted.
FTP is a standard function of hosting; it has to be. There has to be a way to send and receive files between server and client. The problem is that FTP isn’t particularly secure. Through a process known as “packet sniffing” FTP packets can be intercepted by outside actors in transit.
SFTP, on the other hand, stands for secure file transfer protocol. The SFTP process encrypts files before sending them and decrypts them upon receipt. WP Engine uses SFTP parameters on all file transfers, and this service is standard on all plans.
It is a nice level of attention to detail on the part of WP Engine and is yet another peace-of-mind feature that is included in the purchase price. Plus, the dashboard to manage user creation and administration for file transfers is easy to use.
Of all the things that I worried about having to learn how to do or have someone else handle for me, FTP/SFTP was one of the things I simply didn’t know about that is taken care of without any trouble by WP Engine.
5. SSL and CDN Are Included
SSL (secure sockets layer) is an industry standard encryption service. Not only does it protect your site and your visitors, it is also an important factor in SEO ranking.
Search engines like Google want to provide the best experience for their users—the people who are using the search engine. Sites that don’t use SSL technology are vulnerable; therefore, Google gives a more favorable ranking to sites that protect themselves and their visitors.
Some hosting services charge extra for SSL technology, but for sites that are hosted with WP Engine there is no additional cost (the SSL cost is included in the hosting price).
CDNs (content delivery networks) are services that are often offered by site hosts for an additional fee, and like SSL technology, WP Engine offers CDN capabilities at no additional charge.*
A content delivery network is a method of storing the files that make up websites in a series of servers around the globe. When a user accesses your site, a CDN automatically detects their geographic region and displays the site using the server closest to that user.
A website hosted in Taiwan and accessed in New York City won’t load as quickly as that same website being hosted in Alberta, Canada and accessed in New York City. Remember item number one on this list? If the mantra of real estate investment is location, location, location, then the mantra for a solid SEO base is speed, speed, speed.
This is another example of WP Engine going to work for our SEO strategy without us having to lift a finger or even get started with our on-page and outreach efforts. There is one thing to note about WP Engine’s CDN services, however. ClydeBank Media’s web presence doesn’t attract enough traffic yet for this to be an issue, but my guess is that WP Engine’s CDN services aren’t as robust for high levels of traffic as a dedicated CDN service such as CloudFlare or a similar service.
*CDN services aren't included in the personal hosting package prices
6. Robust Analytics & Page Performance
Though it’s no substitute for Google Analytics, the reporting and analytics package offered by WP Engine paints a very clear picture of site activity and other key stats. Compared to other hosting services I have used, it is a little more comprehensive. I suspect that WP Engine’s optimization and key integration with WordPress augments the reporting capacity, but I have nowhere enough technical expertise to back that statement up.
What I do love is insight.
I use Google Analytics for just about everything, so the analytics package included with WP Engine is not one of the service’s features that I use the most, but it is helpful for people who don’t want to take the time to familiarize themselves with Google Analytics or who want to keep everything under one roof, so to speak.
Those insights are all well and good, but by far the best analytic tool WP Engine offers is their page performance grader. In addition to breaking down the speed of your page's load time, the page performance tool also displays a a frame-by-frame "filmstrip" that shows you exactly how your visitors experience your site.
Along with recommendations for improving performance (some of which are more technical than others), the page performance tool is an eCommerce business development dream come true.
7. Automatic Site Backup
Losing all your files sucks. It has happened to me before, and it is the kind of thing that you don’t always think about or prepare for. Data loss only happens to other people.
Not only does WP Engine include an automatic file backup feature, but they provide it at no additional charge. And, if that’s not enough, your sandbox staging environment is backed up as well. In the event of data loss, it is very easy to access the save points and restore from a file backup.
Because the topic of data loss is so near and dear to me, this feature in particular caught my eye.
8. Painless Transition
I started hosting our website on GoDaddy, which it may seem like I am bashing in this post, but I didn’t have any issues with them. GoDaddy offers a perfectly fine hosting service at a reasonable price, but the range of additional features, ease of use, and WordPress-specific optimization of WP Engine drew me away from GoDaddy.
Another reason the change to WP Engine was a great hosting choice for ClydeBank Media? The migration from GoDaddy was completely painless and it didn’t cost a dime. I am no great shakes when it comes to file directories and site migration. It is simply not my strong suit.
WP Engine support was there every step of the way, but all of the work is done by a WP Engine plugin that interfaces between your old hosting service and WP Engine without much manual intervention.
9. You Can Save 20% Today
Right now, new WP Engine customers can get 20% off their first payment, no matter which plan they choose. New customers can cancel hosting services within 60 days for a full refund, and with WP Engine's automatic migration your site can be up and running on WP Engine in as little as 30 minutes, without the help of a developer.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that after making the switch to WP Engine from GoDaddy I found a plethora of features that told me I had made the right choice.
This is not a post designed to bash GoDaddy. I had no issues with their service, and I have nothing against that company. For my needs, and the needs of ClydeBank Media, I found WP Engine to be a far superior service.
This post is about sharing that experience and helping other entrepreneurs grow. WP Engine might not be the best fit for everyone, but my experience so far has led me to believe that it is the best managed hosting service for sites and businesses that are WordPress-powered.
This post addresses the hosting service we use to power our web presence.
Check out this post about how we foster effective communication between the members of our team and why we’re slackers for life at ClydeBank Media.
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Any and all opinions expressed in this, or any of our posts, are those of the person expressing them and do not reflect the opinions, policies, or positions of ClydeBank Media.
John co-founded ClydeBank Media in 2013. Focusing on adding as much value as possible to the market, John, with the support of the exceptional team at ClydeBank Media, has helped guide the early growth of the company. He currently serves as the Director and as a contributor to the ClydeBank Media blog.