I’ve used all sorts of hosting services over the years during my time as a custom web developer, each with varying levels of satisfaction. However, when it comes to hosting an open-source CMS like WordPress, my first recommendation these days is WP Engine. Here’s a breakdown of my favorite features.
Some of the clients we get are looking for a brand new website, while others have a previously existing site we’re going to improve. In the context of WordPress, that means there’s a database of content and a directory of files that need to move.
Clients who choose WP Engine as a new hosting provider get the added benefit of a smooth transition from their previous website hosting to WP Engine through the use of an automated migration tool. Generally, the process takes somewhere between 5 to 10 minutes.
There are typically at least three environments for optimal website development - a local setup used by a developer on their computer, a staging site that is accessible on a public internet (the entire development team, project team and client have access, but the general public isn't visiting), and the actual live website that customers see. The middle child, known as the staging site, is essential to developing a website during both the QA and the client feedback process. Depending on where your site is hosted, you generally have to configure and set up your own staging site.
Again, WP Engine to the rescue - all WP Engine hosting plans include a Staging Site by default. This staging site will be an exact clone of your live site - content, files, and all - once you’ve hit the “Copy site from Live to Staging” button in the WP Engine Settings of the WordPress admin. This is a completely separate WordPress instance, including the database, so you can make all the content edits you need without them showing on the live site.
You can make a fresh copy from live to staging whenever you choose, so making sure content matches between the staging and live site is super easy. With great power comes great responsibility though: there’s also a button called “Copy site from Staging to Live”. This is beneficial if you’ve made drastic changes only on the staging site that need to go to the live site, but you should use caution. (WP Engine has your back and will prompt you with several “Are you sure?” messages - just in case you hit the wrong button).
A fellow team mate referenced how a good record of stability should be included in this article, specifically because hosting issues are common among different providers. After this, I tried to think of instances where WP Engine has had server downtime that was unannounced or caused any headaches for our website or a client’s. I honestly can’t. WP Engine takes great pride in having 99.9% uptime for their servers. When they do anticipate maintenance issues, they communicate outages clearly through emails and on their own website.
In addition to almost never going down, WP Engine is specifically engineered to handle WordPress sites. This includes awareness of any major security risks in popular plugins or the WordPress core, to the point that they’ll even update your site’s version of WordPress for all minor patches. Major releases and security updates are tested before being rolled out to your site. And if something goes wrong, WP Engine will roll-back the update and contact you to sort it out.
Life happens, and that includes on the Internet. Sometimes something major breaks, you write over really important content, or a plugin fails. Having backups of your site can be a life-saver in these situations.
All WP Engine plans include daily backups that run automatically. Not only that, but if you’re about to do a major update, there’s a handy “Back Up Now” feature. These backups include everything on your WordPress site - content, themes, plugins, files, etc. It even has a separate backup for the Staging Site, plus the ability to download a zip copy of any of the site backups (super helpful to grab a quick copy of the site for local development or in preparation for a zombie apocalypse).
Backups are great. Being able to completely restore your site is even better. Should something happen to your site, you can use any of the stored backups on WP Engine to restore the site to its former glory. WP Engine will even do a backup prior to the restore, just in case.
We manage many sites for many clients, but we want each client to have control over their own website. That’s why client websites aren’t hosted on our servers or our hosting accounts. When it comes to custom WordPress development though, new sites need to live in some form of public environment for fellow team members and the client to review during development. Once this process is complete and the site is ready for launch, the site we build ultimately belongs to the client, not us.
This is where transferrable installs from WP Engine come in very handy. In-progress websites exist as private, password-protected WordPress sites that Integrity has access to during our development phase. When it’s time to set a site free to the client’s WP Engine hosting, all we have to do is send an email to start the transfer from our account to theirs (well, it's a little more complicated than that). And if we’re maintaining a support contract with the client, they can still grant us access to any site settings or information we need from their WP Engine dashboard to help them out.
WP Engine is continuously improving their services. Most recently, they went through an entire server infrastructure upgrade to provide even more reliable, fast, secure hosting. These upgrades included communication via email for each site as they happened, including what to expect and any action customers may need to take.
In addition to keeping their servers running smoothly, WP Engine’s provides 24/7 live chat support, which I’ve used on more than one occasion with great results. I’ve gotten help for both our website and client sites within a short amount of time on a variety of issues, whether it was an odd billing email or some server configuration that was conflicting with a site.
From awesome up-time and developer-friendly features to outstanding customer service, WP Engine is winning the hosting game. At Integrity, we're always on the lookout for the best, and when it comes to hosting a WordPress website, the best is WP Engine.
If you want to work with the best custom web developers in St. Louis, give us a shout.
Ed Morrissey, Partner and Chief Creative Officer of Integrity, will lead a breakout session at the upcoming ScalePoint on AI Conference hosted by TechSTL.
Integrity is excited to welcome Evan Kelly as our newest Technical SEO Consultant.