My experience with WPEngine (tl;dr, they sucked)

Today I read this by Jason Cohen. It’s an advertisement for WPEngine, masquerading as a missive about sustainable companies. In it Jason tries to talk up his company by virtue of the halo effect, comparing WPEngine to companies like HubSpot, Freshbooks, SEOMoz and Rackspace.

If my personal experience is anything to go by, it’s bullshit. A few months ago I tried to migrate a small blog network to WPEngine and every aspect of the experience was a total clusterfuck. The service was poor, the documentation was wrong, I’m still haggling over a $500 bill and worst of all, my sites were regularly unavailable during their WPE tenure.

Update 25 October: Ben Metcalfe has made a nice apology on HN and emailed to arrange refunding the WebSiteMovers invoice (which I’ve now paid). While I cannot, based on my own experience, recommend WPEngine; I nevertheless consider the matter to be settled.

Update 5 November: The refund has landed in my account. Thanks Ben.

The Background

So, Ozblogistan is a little blog network that I run. It got started nearly a decade ago when Ken Parish, the principal blogger at what is today called Club Troppo, asked me for some help. I knew Ken because he was one of my law lecturers. We got along well, even though I was a terrible law student. Before long I was helping Ken to run Club Troppo, one of the first of Australia’s influential policy blogs.

And it just grew from there. After a few years of travails with different hosting providers, I wound up running a VPS at Linode. And bloggers began to come asking if they could move in next door to Troppo. So now I actually host several of my favourite blogs and bloggers.

But during this entire time I was a student (to cut a long story short, depression cost me my twenties). I had the time to do all the fiddly tasks that are required if you wish for your installation of WordPress to not fall into a flaming pile of dung every time more than 5 readers show up at once. Then I graduated. Now I have work and I’m spending my spare time on my startup projects. I no longer have time, but I have the standard alternative: money. Based on my billing rate, paying a professional service to host Ozblogistan on my behalf is a no-brainer if it saved me just a few hours.

These WPEngine guys sound awesome!!1!

So, I like Jason Cohen. His blog is good. I’ve learnt from it. And he keeps mentioning his new business. And Patrick McKenzie raves about them, and his blog is good and I’ve learnt from him too. So let’s move to WPEngine.

$250/month for the amount of traffic I do? Well … I guess they are The Best. And you get what you pay for, full service operations are never cheap. Let’s pull the trigger.

The Great Migration

So began the process of migrating the sites.

WPEngine have documentation on their site about performing such migrations. And they promise that they support multisite installations. My little network is quite modest — about 1.2Gb of text, 2.5Gb of media. So I begin to do it myself. After a few hours of copying files, I flip the DNS switches and … it’s broken.

Specifically, it’s in a redirect loop. Like most multisite operators I use the Domain Mapping plugin. For reasons I don’t care about, this breaks on WPEngine.

So I go over the documentation again, sentence by sentence, to check my steps. I don’t see anything I’ve done wrong.

I blow away the database and start again from scratch. Flip the switch.

Redirect loop.

OK. Time to try that famous helpdesk.

Our opening hours …

This part is my fault. WPEngine’s help desk is not a 24/7 operation. And they say so on their website. I guess I should’ve read the fine print.

So when I ask for help, I have to wait. Well actually, first I get an automatic reply which raises my hopes and then dashes them. Then the message tells me that they’ll get right on it … when I’m asleep.

First reply is standard stuff. Did I do this? Yes. Did I do that? Yes I did that.

This goes on for a while. I am rotated to different people. No matter how many times I explain that the instructions as written do not work, they don’t quite seem to understand that as written, the instructions do not work. Even pointing out that those instructions on your website, they aren’t working or that yes, even after following the instructions precisely it is not working for me doesn’t seem to sink in. After going through this process with multiple helpdesk staff this begins to get really, really annoying.

Eventually I mention that surely, being The Ultimate WordPress Hosting Experts, they should handle the migration. And the helpdesk person who happens to be assigned to me that day quickly flick passes me to WebSiteMovers.

Some help from our friends

Here’s the neat thing about WPEngine. They include 6 hours of technical labour from WebSiteMovers, a company who, uh, … move websites. And I figure — they work with WPEngine. And in email they promise that they’ve moved hundreds of WordPress Multisite installations before. Let’s give it a go because I want to like WPEngine and I’ve been telling my bloggers that They Are The Best In The Business and I don’t want to look like an idiot.

And then, a funny thing occurs.

WSM fail to move the site within the prepaid 6 hours.





WSM ask me to authorise more hours.

At this stage, desperate for something — anything! — to work, I agree.

And they do it. I am sent a bill for the additional hours (a bit over $500). Digging into the invoice, I discover that I am being billed for the time it took for WSM to get help from WPEngine’s helpdesk and technical staff.

Let me rephrase that: I am getting billed. For help. That I, as a WPEngine customer, should have received in the first place.

My view is that WPEngine should pay this bill. However I am still haggling with WebSiteMovers to obtain a more detailed account of what help, exactly, they obtained from WPEngine. Sadly, the only lever I have over WSM is to withhold payment. It is an unpleasant business, because honestly, they are not in the wrong here. And they have every right to expect payment from me — I agreed to those additional hours. And I intend to pay them as soon as I can. But I really need to know exactly what was done so I can determine why I didn’t get the same service.

And then I will ask WPEngine to pay me that amount. Not for any legal reason (there’s actually a case here, but suing an international company in the matter of five hundred bucks is retarded), but because they gave shitty service. If they’d given me good service in the first place, if they’d done for me whatever it is they were prepared to do for a company I paid; then I wouldn’t have gotten that invoice in the first place.

Update 5 November: This section is out of date, as WPEngine arranged a refund through WebSiteMovers.

Insult to injury

Then comes the kicker.

The sites frequently die.

It’s the famous “can’t connect to database” error page, the really ugly <h1> job that ships with the base WordPress install. It’s possible to have your own custom page that looks nicer, but I guess WPEngine felt that this would take away engineering resources from writing incomplete migration instructions.

By this point I am livid. Absolutely ropeable. I’ve paid $250 for the first month and WPEngine is failing in its most basic service requirement, which is that the sites be available at all.

Taking my business elsewhere

At this point I begin to look for alternative providers. I pick Their service is personal, hands-on and I don’t keep getting shuffled to different helpdesk staff. They do substantial hands on work themselves to make the migration happen quickly.

Actually, the difference in service between WPEngine and was astonishing. Like WPEngine they don’t have a 24/7 desk, but I was regularly seeing messages that indicated they were putting in 16 hour days. I think that’s crazy, but I sure know that it was better than an automated message telling me to go away and come back when I’ve decided to become an American resident.

Sadly … had technical problems too. But again, their service was outstanding. They contacted WordPress core contributors and discussed my performance problems. The fix is to partition the comments table of one of my busier blogs; weren’t willing to do that within the set prices. So sadly I parted ways with them.

It is important to point out that the technical problem which couldn’t fix is almost certainly the same problem that WPEngine couldn’t fix. The difference is that a) worked tirelessly to diagnose the root cause and b) didn’t keep trying to flick pass me or tell me it was my fault for failing to precisely follow broken instructions.

Neither nor WPEngine can, in all fairness, be blamed for the shortcomings of WordPress. WordPress, like most LAMP apps of its era, makes a series of architectural assumptions that turn out to have horrible impact on non-functional qualities … but that’s another rant for another day.

The difference though is that’s service was good. Really, really good. And WPEngine’s was terrible.

So: if you have a blog with less than 400k comments, use

Where I am today

Back at Linode, back to running it myself.

Based on saving a few hours per month, this entire exercise has been a stunning loss. I’ve blown the time-saved budget well into the 2020s based on all the days and nights I spent arguing and haggling and uploading and downloading and tweaking and researching and then waiting.

I’ve been putting off writing this massive rant for some time now. Epicurus counsels us to avoid people and situations that make us angry. Why seek them out? Life is too short; this is time that could be spent focusing on what makes us happy.

But Cohen’s self-congratulation can’t be allowed to go unquestioned. I know that many people are perfectly happy with WPEngine. I am absolutely not one of them. I found their service poor and their technical chops limited. If you are looking for a WordPress host, avoid WPEngine.

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122 Responses to My experience with WPEngine (tl;dr, they sucked)

  1. Steve says:

    I have an ever-growing number of sites running on my Linode and was thinking of moving away to something like WPEngine; after reading this I think’ll I’ll stick where I am for now.

  2. Why not outsource comments to Disqus?

  3. suggested that. My bloggers want the WordPress comments.

  4. Shane says:

    I have 5 sites on WPEngine. I had issues with DNS with 3 of them. Some took up to a week for them to get it straightened out (!). Other than that, not too much to complain about. Havent experienced any downtime, but it is rather slow on the page loads sometimes.

  5. Shane;

    I found WPEngine faster, but mostly because they use Linode and I could locate in the Tokyo data centre. Previously I’d hosted in Dallas and before that, the notoriously unreliable Fremont centre.

    When I took back hosting I relocated my Linodes to the Tokyo DC and basically I find it just as quick.

    One area where WPEngine has a bit more polish is that their caching stuff is “behind the scenes”; whereas for you can see how they’re using W3TC. Nothing wrong with that, but the WPEngine fit and finish was nice.

    Pity everything else was such a bust.

  6. giacomo says:

    just FYI – linode recently started offering paid support for things like this. open a ticket and get an estimate.

  7. Sorry, paid support for what?

  8. Tom Howe says:

    Indeed. We had a configuration flag called “wp_engine_sucks” at my last job to deal with all of the times they messed up our DNS

  9. Bob says:

    Can you give us an idea of how much traffic you get? I have some ideas but more information would help.

  10. Bob;

    It’s a quiet backwater. Collectively the sites would have maybe 20k unique visitors a day. 50k is a big day hereabouts.

    I am hilariously over-provisioned.

  11. Bob says:

    Wow, so that’s about a request a second ._. You can host that much for free easy but I guess you want nicer support and whatnot.

    If you really like the idea of paying $250 a month, I’d personally recommend these guys:
    They’re quite good at dealing with WordPress. A lot depends on your installation too though. Is it a bunch of sites under the one WordPress installation or is it a bunch of separate installations hosted on the one box?

    You could also use MediaTemple: they deal with some pretty big stuff.

    One last thing I’ll note: Rackspace Cloud Sites. I’ve had nothing but good experiences with Rackspace and their support is amazing.

    I don’t really know if you actually want to move but meh. Thought I’d show you some possibly unknown options ^.^

  12. Well, if you count total RQS it varies from 4-12 depending on the time of day. I’ve got nginx directly serving all the static files and it often manages to serve supercache pages directly from disk, so PHP is often left out of the picture altogether.

    The thing is that 90% of the time it poots along quite happily without any intervention. I just wanted someone else to worry about the other 10%.

  13. Sven says:

    Greetings from Germany,

    not having experience with Linode or WPEngine, I do have experience with WordPress at a local Provider, that cannot be called anything but great. These guys ( manage shared hosting with foll ssh access, an awful lot of technical possibilities and so on.

    But the best thing is, the (the founders themselves) answer every fricking customer-Request. Via Twitter, via Mail, via whatever…

    Never(!) had a problem.

    In that way, I came to love great customer service. Nowadays it really is a showstopper for me, if CS does not work.

  14. Techload says:

    I experienced a similar situation last week. One of my client’s blog exceeded the inodes count on a shared account (Hostgator) and we were forced to move the blog to a VPS account. What followed was a nightmare. The blog was either down or unresponsive. I won’t go into all details, but the main thing is that the blog was down and support tickets were not answered for more than 24 hours and when they answered all they could say was that “all is working fine”, when obviously the site was down!
    Then, there was no other alternative than to move to another hosting. After some research I opted for futurehosting. After contracting a VPS 5 plan, in a matter of a couple of hours their support moved 26gb of data from hostgator to the new vps, always updating me on the status. Then I switched DNS and after propagation the blog ( was working fast and nice.
    Talk about contrast in support quality.

  15. John says:

    my route has been linode and cpanel. linode is cheap already, and with cpanel-dude it’s 15 a month. cuts out the linux cmd line with reliable hosting.

  16. John says:

    Have you tried ZippyKid? They have a good reputation as well as an eagerness to optimize and customize.

  17. I actually spoke to ZippyKid. They were fast to get in touch, which was nice. But they don’t handle multisite installations.

  18. sasha says:

    Sorry to hear of your troubles.

    Regarding Epicurus and staying cool, here’s something from their front page: “Hassle-Free WordPress Hosting – Speed, Scale, Security, and Support, Fully Managed” 🙂

  19. Jacob Williams says:

    I have tried to host WordPress sites on RackSpace Cloud Sites and it was miserable. The PHP load balancing is great but the MySQL instances are over provisioned and cause the site to slow down. Cached requests are great but logged-in users would regularly get an error that was worded in a way that suggested a site configuration error, when in fact it was a database latency problem. The load balancer reported a timeout because the PHP server was waiting for the database.

    I moved all of my clients’ WP sites to a couple of cloud servers and they are running great with nginx, php fastcgi and w3tc caching.

  20. Shawn says:

    You make some great points (especially the seeming disingenuous WPEngine promotion) and have started a good conversation. Would you be interested in flipping the conversation (or maybe a new post) to talk about what you would want in a managed WP host?

  21. Mason James says:


    Your experiences here are as noteworthy as they are sad. I spent the first 6 months of this year researching WP Engine,, and ZippyKid as potential hosting providers for build my service platform at WP Valet.

    After 6 month, I ultimately went with WP Engine for reasons I explain on this post: (most if not all these reasons are still valid)

    One of the main points I make to folks looking at managed WP hosting is that these server environments are finely tuned for a specific set of circumstances. When your install meets all that criteria, you’ve got smooth sailing and truly, a beautiful experience.

    However, when there’s something outside of those expectations, things can go wrong. When that happens you suddenly realize this entire industry is very young. You see this in the sparsity of documentation and in the (sometimes very rapid) changes that happen in the available setups.

    Companies like mine (and there are several that have started up since WP Valet began in May of this year) seek to understand each new client’s install as well as the managed hosting environment and navigate the migration process for you. Because we do it everyday, we’re more familiar with any pitfalls and can help predict and fix a problem before it arises.

    I think critiques such as yours are valid and important. They push all of us in the WordPress support services industry to be better. I’ve spent time talking to all 3 of the companies mentioned above and know they are all firmly committed to providing the best user experience possible – not that the win every single one, none of us do.

    I often go back and read Matt’s blog post “1.0 is the loneliest number”: It encourages me in my business to push for excellence while recognizing that we haven’t arrived yet.

    I appreciate you taking the time to share your perspective and experience. As the industry matures I hope a time comes when you can feel confident of giving these services another shot – and that you find an altogether opposite result!

  22. FYI, we have been a happy WPEngine customers since they launched. We are very happy with their service and I couldn’t imagine going back to doing it myself.

  23. Ben Hebert says:

    I’ve been using WP engine for 6-8 months now and have been satisfied with their service. There have been multiple events where the site has gone down for no apparent reason other than database issues, but this is much better than where we were before. Overall for the price that I’m paying, I would put it at meets expectations or just barely exceeds them.

  24. Joe says:

    ive had six clients who tried to migrate to WP Engine and in every case I’ve had to bail them out and move their site back to a standard host. Different issues each time, but WP Engine’s arrogant staff are unwilling to deal with anything bigger than a 100 visitor a month blog install as far as I can tell. On top of that they

  25. giacomo says:

    @Jacques: sorry if I wasn’t clear. paid support for sysadmin, infrastructure and optimization stuff. I don’t know if they handle WordPress, but you could ask.

  26. Shawn;

    At a certain level, the very requirement for businesses whose entire value proposition is “we make the pain of WordPress go away” is quite sad.

    The whole thing would make a great case study for path dependency and how they feed into software architecture paradigms.

  27. Peldi, Ben;

    I’m really happy it worked out for you. For most customers they are apparently a win.

  28. Justin says:

    Have you looked into or considered utilizing Cloudflare to increase your blog load speeds? If you have or do, I’d be interested in hearing about your results, whether it helped and if so by how much.

  29. The network, except for one blog, is behind CloudFlare. It makes a small but noticeable difference to the load time, particularly static resources.

    Of course … the one site not behind CloudFlare was mildly DOS’d the other day. Murphy’s Law.

  30. Dave Rodenbaugh says:

    Hi Jacques,

    I have two majors sites with WPEngine and my experience was very different than yours. Transfer was smooth, support was exceptional and they helped me through a few issues during the switch. I can’t say that my experience mirrors yours at all.

    WPEngine is great, I’d still recommend it to everyone for solid, managed WP hosting.

  31. > The fix is to partition the comments table of one of my busier blogs; weren’t
    > willing to do that within the set prices. So sadly I parted ways with them.

    Of course they won’t work for free, – I don’t quite understand why you’d expect them to. The set prices are for the hosting service itself – what you’re asking for here is something they will charge for hourly (I imagine).

  32. silly says:

    This is ridiculous.

    Migrations, especially on large sites can be very specific and complex, they require professionals to analyze, test and setup.

    To think that you just click a few button or pay a HOST to manage your problems is quite frankly retarded.

  33. PJ Brunet says:

    I assume the redirect loop was an NginX issue? My first guess would be “server_name_in_redirect off;”

    Anyway, Linode is solid. If you ever want to outsource WordPress tweaks you don’t have time for, let me know. My clients have my personal cell # so if something breaks in the middle of the night, I’m going to be working on it.

    Which Linode plan do you have? Are you overall happy with your blogs’ performance now that you’re back on Linode? Are you using MyISAM or InnoDB?

  34. dylan says:

    I agree with this post.

    You might check out Hostgator VPS service, it’s blazing fast and really stable.

  35. Andrew Nacin says:

    From a WordPress perspective, 400k comments is chump change. I regularly run tests with hundreds of thousands of comments. The key, of course, is to avoid things that cause slow queries (querying by metadata, for example). Just because the API (or SQL) can do it, doesn’t you should — not everything can or will scale.

    With regards to architecture, first look at using InnoDB over MyISAM if you haven’t already. It’s dough, but a database server with an SSD drive makes an incredible difference. (It’s actually sometimes faster to run a query than it is to consult memcache for the cached result.) If that’s not enough, there are a number of clever things you can do to extract more from the comments query class, similar to high-performance changes that some implement in the posts query class. Also, a static caching solution like Batcache could help you if part of your problem is page invalidation when comments get posted, because it is engineered to serve old pages to new users when necessary.

    That’s not to say there aren’t more things we can do to make performance better. WordPress 3.5 actually makes a few smart changes to a few APIs, and I’m sure there will be more to come. If you have something to contribute, please do!

  36. Matt says:

    Howdy, I’m a co-founder of WordPress. If you have a few minutes could you point us to the core comment problems you ran into with the large blog with 400k+ comments? At we have plenty of larger sites with that many comments and larger and have never had to shard comment tables, so I’m wondering if there is another configuration issue that might be able to help. (Also, why did it work on your Linode but not or WP Engine?)

    I think if we can clear that up you’ll have a lot more flexibility in where and how you host. I agree that for the amount of traffic and data you have you shouldn’t be spending much / any time on it, and it shouldn’t be very expensive.

  37. Chris says:

    You might give a try, and let us handle the heavy lifting of hosting your sites. 🙂

    If you’re not familiar with us, there’s a nice guide explaining the differences between and self-hosting WordPress:

  38. Dan Grossman says:

    Regarding the comment elsewhere that the issue was with a table with 188,000 comments or some similar number. Do these couple of blogs really have 188,000 authentic comments? I would guess the only way to have that many entries in your comments table is if it contains years and years of automated spam, and most of these comments are already marked as such so they don’t actually appear on the sites. If that’s the case, instead of partitioning the table and other code workarounds, why can’t you just delete the rows?

  39. Bjørn;

    You’re right — weren’t going to run the partitioning commands within the plan I was on (for the hands-on enterprise plan they’d consider it, but that was just a bit rich for my blood).

  40. PJ;

    No idea what the issue was. I never found out.

  41. Andrew;

    I wouldn’t have thought that 400k would be a Big Deal, but apparently that and the Recent Comments widget is a toxic combo.

    These days I’m running on PerconaDB, which uses their InnoDB fork underneath.

    I absolutely agree about SSDs — they’ve breathed new life into RDBMS-backed designs. I considered hosting with Australian firm OrionVM, who have all their VMs onto SSDs, but the bandwidth costs in Australia are simply too high.

  42. Dan;

    Yes, they do have hundreds of thousands of authentic comments. Larvatus Prodeo was very active until it closed, Catallaxy Files is very active on a daily basis and Club Troppo has archives going back a decade. It adds up.

  43. I think the blog post speaks for itself.

  44. PJ Brunet says:

    @ Andrew +1 InnoDB

  45. I was going to dig through my emails to refresh my memory, but someone on HN has already resummarised the issues:

  46. I run 84 sites on 3 VPS stacks at LiquidWeb. I am in my fourth year with them. I ran into issues awhile back with Malware attacks and spent a full month evaluating and testing several providers. I checked out WPEngine, because their marketing works, and it looked quite appealing at that time, especially given the hell I was going through with my setup. But the lack of 7/24 support and the HIGH PRICE of running services stopped me in my tracks.

    Being ignorant of certain aspects of locking down my server, I ran across an individual who taught me about proper deployment SUPHP, modification of default CentOS setup, and a few other techniques that I should have deployed on the server right from the start. I learned a lot from this guy and after a week of changing the elements required and recompiling Apache and other services, my malware issues ceased to be a problem.

    That individual was one of the tech guys that answer the phone in less than a minute every time I call LW. I hear a lot good and bad about LiquidWeb depending on who you talk too, but I have to say that after 4 years of working with them, I am happy with the work they do.

    There have been times when the support tech I get doesn’t have the right answers, and then the next guy I get does. I get a little frustrated at times with the strict mod sec rules, which tend to block my IP about once a month, but I have come to appreciate not having to spend hours deleting malware files.

    Overall for the price, the instant access to decent help, and the ability to custom define the setup of your system, all these factors have led me to stick with them.

    2 centavos deposited.

  47. strebel says:

    Hello Jacques,

    Just wanted to give Nacin some context.

    @nacin At we had him on his own, private SSD backed MySQL node with more then ample specs and the site was lb’d across our web pool.

    His site was serviced by;

    Memcached object cache
    APC opcode (only core files)
    SSD backed MySQL
    256MB ram per php process
    At min 5 web nodes in the pool
    We did flip his tables to innoDB, it helped some.

    There were a couple things working against us/wp.

    – The users used comments like a chat room. 100’s of comments per hour, busting the all caches. Varnish, Object, MySQL.
    – The users were all logged in, the wp_logged_in cookie essentially nullified varnish for 90% of the page views.
    – The actual comments on the post worked, it was the recent comments widget that was the problem… it was on every page, and had to make new calls after each new comment, sometimes multiple times per minute.
    – to be fair when I asked Jaquith about it he did not actually look at anything, just said something to the affect: ‘400k comments? may need to shard that table’
    – Everything we saw pointed to the recent comments widget. Since that widget is part of core.. we did not do anything with it. Again the comments themselves displayed fine on each post.

    I wish I would have saved some of the traces to share.

    And @Jacques:
    Sorry we could not be of more help than we were at the time.

  48. Brandon says:

    Not a plug but learned from years of experience: Liquid Web. No other hosting companies to consider for a WordPress setup or standard cPanel setup. Period. End of Story.

  49. Brandon says:

    Reading my comment that’s pretty heavy handed but I’ve felt strongly about how great experience with them as been.

  50. Yeah, Catallaxy Files regulars really do use it a lot like a chat room. It gets reloaded constantly and the frequent comments bust my caching as well.

  51. Why Linode and not something like Hetzner? It’s half the price… Just curious as I’m looking into this now.

  52. I’m happy at Linode. Since moving out of the Fremont centre I’ve never had a problem.

  53. Basically I fall outside the range of sites that could realistically rehost on the free service.

    Too much media. WXR imports too large. And so on.

  54. Rob Walling says:

    This is one person’s experience. I’ve had multiple WP installs at WP Engine for over a year and have not had any of the issues you mentioned. I constantly recommend WPEngine to people looking to find a solid WP host (and also do so publicly on my blog and podcast).

  55. jim says:

    Appreciate your writing this up. When I tried WPEngine earlier in the year, I kept getting bit by Error 503 problems. I really wanted to like them, but was just not feeling a lot of love back. It was very frustrating.

    I’ve since eked out as much performance as I’m going to get on DreamHost and have been starting to look around again at my options. Thanks for the pointers to and linode.

  56. I saw all of this unfolding as a reader at, so it’s interesting to now get the back story.

  57. Patrick says:

    It sounds like your bloggers just aren’t willing to retrain a few habits. I know of no new technical functionality that WP offers with comments over D.

  58. Joe says:

    No offense, but I don’t see how you can complain with WP issues at scale. I enjoy the LAMP stack and WP, but clearly you’re going to need some more powerful mojo for hundreds of thousands of comments and other large sites. There is really no reason to expect WP to work out of the box at that scale. Further, anyone that runs a web company should not have to contact the WP contributors to learn what partitioning is. Ever heard of federating, master slave replication, and materialized views? Sounds like these are not very serious operations.

  59. I’m the one who suggested partitioning. The guys know about it, but it would have elevated my situation to being outside the automated toolset, requiring occasional manual attention. In fairness that puts me into their enterprise level of support, which I wasn’t prepared to pay for. So we parted ways.

  60. Chris Piepho says:

    Hi Jacques –

    If you’re not completely sick of moving the site around, I would be happy to set you up at Lightning Base. I’ll provide a couple weeks free so you don’t have to shell out more $$$ just for another test, and we always provide free transfers.

    Given the trouble you’ve had at a couple of our competitors, I can’t guarantee we’ll be better, but our setup is probably much more like you run at Linode. My expectation is that it would be fine.

    Contact me (email I used for the post) if you’re interested in giving it one more try. You could include some info about the plan you’re on and your setup at Linode so I can make a more educated guess at what kind of resources you’ll need on our system.

  61. Jann says:


    I have been with WP Engine for more than a year now and run 16 multi-site installs on dedicated servers under their premium offering. The support I received has been absolutely amazing. Couple of things I really like about their offering:
    – its easy to setup a staging environment to test any new plugins or changes
    – restore points work well where one can roll-back a site (like apples’ time machine) after any changes
    – caching is handled by WP Engine
    – after a year of moving my sites I saw an increase in search engine rankings (and my sites score on average 90% with google page speed tests without having to fiddle and optimise on my side)

    And no, I don’t work for WP Engine 🙂

  62. Brad Dalton says:

    I have been hosting with WPEngine for over 6 months now.

    Previously i was with Hostgator VPS

    WPEngine offer the FASTEST WordPress servers by a long way based on my experience.

    I migrated myself because i’ve done this dozens of times.

    And by the way, i offer a free migration service to WPEngine.

  63. PJ Brunet says:

    Depending on your blog, your comments could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Content is king. Especially now with Google’s duplicate content penalty. I can’t believe so many bloggers willingly export, for free, the most valuable content on their website! Maybe it’s destiny, Daniel Ha is laughing all the way to the bank.

  64. Dan Gayle says:

    My experience with WordPress is: Use Disqus for comments. Problem solved.

  65. Thanks, Chris, but I think I will just stay where I am for now.

  66. I liked the inbuilt caching too. But as for the rest … well, the post speaks for itself.

  67. I’ve migrated a lot of sites too. Including migrating from large standalone sites into multisite. This wasn’t my first rodeo.

  68. My bloggers like the inbuilt system.

  69. I hope you at least enjoyed the kittens and the dalek.

  70. Brad Dalton says:

    I know how stressful it can be with hosting nightmares.

    Hopefully the worst is behind you now.

    I’m staying where i am as its been a great experience for me after 18 months of sub standard server performance with VPS and Pro shared.

  71. pit says:

    You can also use Facebook for comments.

  72. Lol, I did Jaques 🙂

    Thanks for all your efforts with the network – I suppose I should have known better, but I had no idea how much work had gone into keeping it up and running smoothly over the years.

  73. Yurena says:

    In my startup we started using WPEngine 6 months ago because we got a deal to try a professional plan of $99/month for free during 3 months.
    I looked at the services they offer and everything was amazing, so why not trying for free? we could always migrate if it doesn’t work.
    We had some problems during migration, for us written instructions didn’t work at the first time, we reviewed all the steps again and choose between different post instructions, because it wasn’t clear enough which one we should follow. But at the end we did it, with some help through their Zendesk I think.
    But worst part was the availability of our site. One day we realize that site was down, and I put an issue which was solved in some hours. They just said that they had restarted MySQL and now it was working. WTF! I give thanks but really asked to find the reason of the issue. Two days later site went down again, and I insisted on finding the reason. They did something and promised it wouldn’t happen again.
    And one week later we went to the business zone of Gamescom in Cologne, a very important fair for our company, where we were talking to many people, exchanging business cards, showing somethings of our product… and the first day the site went down again (surprise?).
    Some furious I look at their call center and at this time it was closed, I realized about the time difference between Austin and Germany, but anyway I try calling, and hear a message of “voicemail is full” (WTF again). No answers for hours in a very critical moment for us, bad! I would say that 2/3 of the fair the site was down.
    At some point, I don’t remember if it was before or after Gamescom, they moved our site to another server, but I guess it happen again.
    Now we are happy hosting our site ourselves (meaning some more work), WPEngine lose us as testers, but I really hope they improve their support, I think is the worst thing they have at this moment and their service, although I still think that is very expensive, is promising and could be really good.


  74. Ryan says:

    Let me preface this by saying I have worked with WP Engine regularly and have always been happy with their service. My issue is with WebsiteMovers, the company they recommend for migration. WP Engine has been nothing but awesome… WebsiteMovers has been nothing but headaches.

    I had a run of the mill WordPress install that we wanted to migrate to WP Engine. Due to the fact my schedule was pretty full, we opted to have Website Movers take care of this — After all, this is what they do.

    We arranged a time to make the final DNS switch… 72 hours after that, I let them know that the DNS records were still resolving to the old host. Instead of a response, the site just went down about 15 minutes later… Even though they said we wouldn’t experience downtime.

    They got it fixed after that, but we were missing all of our latest posts. I asked them if they could sync (as that was part of the agreement) and they said yes… but they needed me to authorize an additional $109 for them to do so. I didn’t think this was fair, and I wanted to know WHAT went wrong. They proceeded to give me the runaround.

    At first, they told me the migration didn’t go through because Jetpack is disallowed by WP Engine. However, I ran WP Engine Ready (which they recommend) prior to the migration and it didn’t trigger any red flags. I also found out that not only is Jetpack allowed by WP Engine, it is curated and endorsed by them. Upon bringing that to their attention, they told me flat out that they can’t work on our site without us authorizing more time, which I refuse to do. They won’t even tell me what caused the issue.

  75. Steve says:

    LiquidWeb all the way.
    I’ve spent 10’s of thousands on servers and hosting in the past 15 years. From ev1 servers to rackspace to colo and finally to liquidweb about a year ago.
    Hands down best support in the business. And FREE migrations.
    I just called them and asked to optimize one of my VPS accounts for WP. Google page speed test scored 90 before any plugins or browser caching.

  76. Art says:

    Well, just coming off 6 days of trying to make things work at WPE, I’ll add my perspective. There are two issues to consider with WPE.

    1.) Professional Support
    2.) Technical Compatibility

    Before we migrated to WPE, we decided to conduct due diligence by asking a series of questions ie; plugins, ability to clone and scale, bulk-manage a group of sites via ManageWP, security, back-up, etc.

    Long story short, we received numerous responses from numerous tech support people (8 different people) all of whom provided various different answers to the same questions. This was a huge red flag to our lead developer — who has been in the business for 25 years — and regularly deals with various hosts and tech support systems/people. (FYI… all tech support is very professional and super polite.)

    For example re: ManageWP. We were told “No, it was not compatible with WPE and that we should go Multi-Site. (that is not an option for us). Then, another tech told us that if they “relaxed” a script, that we could, indeed, use ManageWP. A third response was that WPE was working with ManageWP and that the option would be available soon.

    So, this is probably a result of WPE growing so fast that they don’t exactly have the tech support totally under control or “on the same page.” I get it. It’s common for popular start-ups to go through this phase. Woothemes comes to mind.

    The second part is Project Compatibility. This is why we conducted due diligence and have now opted away from WPE.

    WPE is like a top-fuel dragster. It goes really fast… but only in a straight line. Throw in a few curves and you’re driving off the road at 200+ mph!

    If you have a straight forward website with nothing tricky involved then the WPE is an exciting host that will load your pages like lightning.

    On the other hand, our project is multiple websites (over 35 and growing) requiring bulk management, constant cloning and a slew of other considerations. We need a freakin’ bulldozer. So, we’re back to the obvious solution of a dedicated server with nothing fancy and 24/7 tech support. There are plenty of good ones.

    So, before jumping to WPE, I strongly recommend you consider the scope of your project and be advised that tech support is not quite up to industry standards, yet.

  77. Kim says:

    I checked out WPEngine, ZippyKid, and LightningBase a few months ago while searching for a web host that specialized in fast page load times and WordPress. WPEngine never even responded to my initial pre-sign-up questions about their plans and hosting. ZippyKid took about a day to respond to my questions, but their reply was negative and for some questions, they didn’t answer the question I was asking but appeared to have cut-and-paste from other documents.

    LightningBase replied in less than an hour and had some really good ideas for me. I signed up with them, and I have had a great experience in terms of site responsiveness and tech support. I migrated a WordPress site from my old host to LightningBase, and did some page load speed tests to compare. A page that took over 9 seconds to load on my old host took just 1.3 seconds on LigthningBase. Most of my pages that were taking 7-8 seconds to load on the old host now take 1 to 1.2 seconds to load on LightningBase. (empty your cache/history before doing page load time tests for accuracy.)

    Whenever I email a question to LightningBase tech support, I generally receive an answer in 45 minutes to 2 hours later, and the answer is generally a complete resolution of my issue. (Not like my old GoDaddy’s tech support experiences, where they reply but don’t actually solve your issue.)

  78. Ben says:

    We have just tried wpengine and It was a disaster, hopefully we can get a refund.

    Our origional problem was that wordpress was getting hacked on shared hosting like godaddy and will keep looking.

    Any suggestions will help. I will look at LightningBase

  79. Appledystopia says:

    Whatever you’re doing, it’s working well. This page loads like greased lightning.

    I’m considering moving to WPEngine, and am in the due diligence phase. For the most part, I hear nothing but praise.

    My site is about 8 months old and I am getting almost 20,000 page views per month. I am on FatCow, but I have already outgrown it. I paid for 2 years, which is only $75. I shouldn’t be pennywise and pound foolish. On a busy day, usually Sunday, I am seeing page load times of 20 seconds in Google Analytics. I’ve done just about everything I can to optimize. I get a 92/100 for page speed on Google and 88/100 on Clearly, this performance impact comes from using a shared server that is overloaded.

    For me, with one site and no motivation to be a sysadmin (I am a techie, with 15+ years of java ee experience, working in corporate enterprise computing), I can see the appeal of WPEngine. Yes, I can figure out how to setup my own Linux box. I have a few at home and I’m no stranger to Linux. I just don’t want to do that. I want to focus on writing content. Every hour I spend as a sysadmin is one less I can spend as a writer.

    Anyway, WPE have a 60 day money back guarantee. I have one site. It should be simple and just work. Perhaps, for someone like me, WPEngine may work well. I hear so many good things about them, and even WordPress has invested money in the company. They’re running some pretty big corporate WordPress sites.

    That’s one thing that dissuaded me from I tried to find out — who are the big players that use I read a lot of good things about them, but some complaints that it is not that fast. I need pages to load in under 5 seconds. The occasional 20 second page load time (average is 6.5) is turning visitors away and inhibiting growth. The difference in cost is negligible. As an LLC, costs are tax deductible anyway.

    As for Fatcow? They’re fine for running a hobby site or information about your small business (local restaurant or service provider). It’s not their fault. They make no claims to be a great host for high-traffic sites. My site has grown faster than I thought, and it’s come to the point that I have outgrown their overloaded servers. It’s a good place to start. $75 for 2 years is peanuts. I probably spend more money on peanuts, cashews and almonds in 2 years. You get what you pay for, for the most part. No $3/mo host is going to be fast.

    Anyway, I have not decided on WPE, but from what I have read they are a good choice. The fact that they get great reviews, host major sites, and even WordPress has invested in the company are good signs. Beyond not wanting to put on my sysadmin hat (I had a bad experience dealing with an overloaded java ee app server for a few years), the enhanced security is also important. With a 60-day money back guarantee, it seems like the way to go.

    I just want to say, I really love WordPress. I could develop my own CMS in java ee or rails, but nothing as great as WordPress. WordPress is a mature and feature-rich technology. This is a wonderful community. There are so many great options for hosting. I almost went the route of rolling my own CMS. I’m so glad I didn’t!

  80. Lots of people swear by WPEngine. It probably works great if your requirement is standalone blogs and you don’t need help from their support desk.

  81. Tiger says:

    Im with WPEngine

    been with them for 3 and an half months

    first site migrated fine but the next 3 are having alot of problems with redirect loops and all types of crazies

    The support on wpengine as been pretty poor and i’m looking at a change

    what would you folks recommend?

  82. Alex says:

    I really wish I’d run across your blog post sooner. I’m in the exact situation with WP Engine right now with MySQL database connection issues happening every 2-3 days for a network I help manage at work. The issue has been diagnosed as insufficient memory dozens of times and WP Engine refuses to offer any deeper insight. Out of memory.. OK, what is taking up all the memory usage? Nothing… from them on this.

    Worst of all, I have a team of developers (not sys admins) who could jump on the problem if we knew where it was. WPE gives no shell access (ok I understand) but we have no clue if we have bad code causing memory issues or what. So, we’re completely in the dark and no where to go.

    Trafton from WPE, their sales guy assured us several times that our multisite network would be fine and that they could handle it no problem. We sent our apache logs to them twice before pulling the trigger to migrate over which they said all was a go from their research and everything they needed to see and know they could handle our network. After weeks of migration work, testing, even load testing, we made the migration and have had problems every 2-3 days ever since without fail.

    It’s also super frustrating the WPE doesnt take the time to find the root problem and pretty much we’ve been told to take it or leave it, money is not an issue.

    We’re already paying them $2,500 a month – yes, that is the real figure. We’re on the biggest hardware they offer, but it’s only 8gb and 32 bit and that isn’t enough. In today’s age of computing and infra, how on earth can you limit capabilities to 8gb of ram? I understand that is quite a bit for single sites, but WPE talks up their ability to handle large multisite networks.

    Their support sucks too, we’re paying for the top tier premium support service “concierge” and all in all it’s pretty lame compared to a company like Rackspace. I call their support number quite frequently now when we’re having issues and 80% of the time no one picks up the phone.

    OK, enough venting for now. Gotta keep working on a plan to move off WPE.

  83. I’m using an 8Gb machine on DigitalOcean. Cost per month: $80. Maybe $200 if I factor in the time I spend administering it.

    Multisite is a beast. People simply underestimate how much BS is necessary to keep a multisite installation fed and happy, even a small one like mine.

  84. Alex says:

    Yeah, 8gb VPS machines are pretty cheap, on Linode they are $160 a month which is what WPE is using. It’s just crazy that WPE cannot use their larger machines that are clearly available.

    Right now we’re thinking about shooting the moon the a dedicated machine spec’s with at least 32gb of ram and SSDs.

  85. My advice is that for a large installation it’s worth breaking the system into at least a DB server and a Web/PHP server. It greatly reduces I/O contention. MySQL is pretty rotten at the exact sort of queries WordPress most likes to do: joining two tables with full text fields. Apparently 5.6 improves that; when Percona 5.6 comes down the pipe I’ll be interested to see if on-disk joins fall off.

    Speaking of which, I moved away from Linode because I became heavily I/O bound. I’m on DigitalOcean and, until I dug deeper and found that xmlrpc.php in WP3.5 is a fucking disaster, I was being CPU-bound instead.

  86. Alex says:

    We’re working on a Plan B right now to get some serious dedicated hardware to support the multisite.

    I just tried to download a backup and the Database in the backup is 0kb. This isn’t looking very promising that we actually have backups working.

  87. Alex;

    (Replying to you at #2964)

    A quick look through my emails reveals that I had to get WPEngine to do a manual dump for me; the dashboard tools didn’t do it properly for me either.

    Other tips I would give, most of which you will already know:

    Use Nginx with PHP-FPM, if you aren’t already. Install WP-Supercache and configure it to write .gz files to disk, then activate the gzip_static directive in Nginx. It will serve gzipped pages directly off disk.

    Use Percona Server. It’s got far more instrumentation than either MySQL or MariaDB. Use query caching.

    Block requests to, or remove, xmlrpc.php unless you have an absolute requirement. In 3.5 the WordPress team switched it on by default and removed the ability to disable it … while simultaneously greatly expanding the scope of things it can do. If you have xmlrpc.php facing the open internet you are now a malware vector and will find your CPUs being hammered into the dirt and your PHP instances will lock up en masse. A bit like being an open SMTP relay.

  88. Peter says:

    Terrible support!

    Ive been with WPE for 3 days and what rubbish support, obviously when moving servers there will be some teething problems but i don’t expect to have to wait 11 hours (and counting) to get a reply.

    can anyone recommend any decent hosting companies with good support that can handle large wordpress websites ?

  89. PJ Brunet says:

    “In today’s age of computing and infra, how on earth can you limit capabilities to 8gb of ram?”

    How much traffic are you getting?

    I heard WPEngine is just reselling Linodes. Maybe that’s why you’re limited there. With Linode you really need to scale horizontally because even the biggest plans they have you are sharing a server with other people. I think most “WordPress hosts” are just reselling some other host but charging extra for the WordPress support.

    If you want to go through Linode directly, maybe we can work out a deal. If you have a big site I recommend you get two Linodes. One for MySQL and one for NginX/PHP. You definitely need a 64bit Linode for MySQL or you run out of memory pretty fast. 32bit MySQL has a 2gig memory limit!

    If you want some help, hit me up.

  90. PJ Brunet says:

    “People simply underestimate how much BS is necessary to keep a multisite installation fed and happy, even a small one like mine.”

    Which is why your time doing this is only worth $120/month??? Your comment seems to contradict itself.

    I personally think multisite is atrocious and advise people stay away from it. I won’t host a MU install. For most people, most of the time, it’s totally unnecessary. You can make any WordPress install “multisite” with just one line of PHP code, all you need to do is take the first X letters of the domain name and make that your database prefix. So if you know PHP, this is the more straightforward way to go. If you’re serious about building yet another blog farm (like the Internet really needs another one) chances are you have a PHP developer on staff to do this. That’s just my opinion 🙂

    IMO WordPress should never have merged MU into the core code. It should be a separate product for responsible people who know what multisite really is, why it was created in the first place, and know they’re getting into, legal ramifications, etc.

  91. PJ Brunet says:

    Wish I could +1 this. Great comment!

  92. I heard WPEngine is just reselling Linodes.

    They are:

    $ tracert

    1 <1 ms <1 ms <1 ms
    2 15 ms 14 ms 14 ms []


    18 319 ms 294 ms 310 ms []

  93. PJ Brunet says:

    I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with that, as Linode provides minimal tech support and pretty much you’re on your own with a blinking cursor in the CLI. Most people don’t have the experience or the time or the inclination to care whether CentOS or Debian is the best distro for the job. So all the work that goes into managing backups, making an authoritative decision that Linode is the currently the best option, figuring out Plan B, Plan C, and having lived through a few Plan Cs, that’s valuable, even if a lot of it is cerebral, based on experience, not necessarily tapping keys. WPEngine essentially started doing what I was already doing on a larger scale. You can’t provide quality service when you’re trying to scale something so complex. It’s just not possible to train people enough to do the job properly while paying a wage that allows them to compete with people like me who sit at home in their boxers managing servers, let alone dealing with all the U.S. government-imposed paperwork/expense that comes with hiring people. On top of that, this stuff requires a lot of familiarity with little details, it’s difficult to pass the idiosyncrasies from employee A to employee B no matter how detailed your notes are. It doesn’t translate that easily. Hiring employees is so 2008 😉 When the better sysadmin is living in some bombed-out concrete building in the middle of nowhere paying peanuts for rent, maybe logging in from some grotesque laptop, I can only imagine. But big sites will keep signing up for WPEngine, Gatorhost, etc. Because they haven’t been abused enough, they want to save money, they don’t realize their growth is hindered by slow MySQL queries, etc. You basically have two choices: learn the Linux and MySQL and PHP, etc. Or focus on your business and pay an expert to deal with the nitty gritty-details year after year. The problem I do see with WPEngine reselling Linodes–I figure a significant chunk of WPEngine’s target market is fairly technically savvy. They’re not really targeting the noob blogger. So IMO they should be a little more forthcoming as far as what they’re doing, essentially reselling another web host’s services. On the surface it’s advertised as a web host but in reality what they’re doing is more like system administration on a massive scale, and that’s not really clear at first glance. Whereas a company like Rackspace, while I’m not a big fan, I’m pretty sure they own (or at least lease?) their own hardware and either have their own datacenter(s) or have some real contracts, etc. I essentially resell Linodes too but I’ve changed hosts at least a dozen times and I’m not intrinsically attached to them. While they have proven themselves to be an extremely durable company (Linode) I expect them to fail eventually, as all web hosts do, as this is a cutthroat business and there’s entirely too many things that can go wrong even if you’re REALLY careful and it’s an incredibly competitive business (globally) that doesn’t pay very well, considering the amount of work and knowledge it takes to keep these websites going year after year–to say the least!

  94. PJ Brunet says:

    I forgot to say, while I currently resell Linodes, I tend to avoid tech-savvy clients. It boils down to this: You can only have one CTO! If I say CentOS and you say Ubuntu, or if you say Varnish and I say no Varnish, this turns into a never-ending back-and-forth debate that’s extremely time-consuming and costly. I’ll end up spending hours explaining why X technology is not my choice. Without going into details, it’s just not worth it. I think this is true in any field, some people know just enough to be dangerous.

  95. Alex says:

    We did end up getting a copy of the DB. It took running a php script to pull the DB one table at a time, it was slow, but did the trick.

    Thanks for the advice on xml-rpc we’ll dig into this. We are using this on all our sites, but we could limit access to it for our syndication server’s IP address and block the rest of the world.

  96. It’s pretty easy if you’re using nginx. What I have now:

    # Fucking wordpress 3.5's fucking retardedly evil xmlrpc.php
    location = /xmlrpc.php {
         deny all;

    In your case, something like this:

    # Less unprofessional comment
    location = /xmlrpc.php {
         deny all;

    Where is subbed for the correct IP.

  97. Oh, and the usual bad guy for choked exports in PHP running time limits. Either on the export side or import side. This catches lots of people on WXRs.

    Naturally, WordPress does not include code that accounts for this and will silently fail to complete a WXR export and then silently import an incomplete WXR without notifying that it is, actually, incomplete.

  98. I had multiple sites with users in common. It seemed, on its face, to the be The Right Thing To Do.

    In retrospect, it wasn’t.

  99. PJ says:

    Maybe some “colorful metaphors” in Russian would work 😉

  100. Peter,

    Take a look at ServInt.

    I have not personally used them. But heard good things from a couple of users I know. I was looking for reviews on them in Google and somehow landed on this post.

  101. dennis says:

    Thanx for the review Jacques. it’s rare i read all the way to the end of the comments anywhere, but the standard of commenters, and the information they’ve imparted have been extremely helpful to me.

    I’m looking to scale up, and was about to jump on board with WP Engine, based on everything I’ve read up until this post, but now it’s clear that they won’t be suitable, much of which has come from the comments attached to your insightful review…

    I wasn’t aware they didn’t offer a bunch of features I’m used to, like email hosting, cPanel, phone support etc. Also, as I’m based outside of the US, the available support hours aren’t sufficient, especially at the premium rates being charged.

    I’m not technically proficient enough to be able to self-administer my server needs, and the biggest driver for me to switch to these guys was the idea of getting quality VPS level infrastructure, with premium support included. Seems that’s only half true…

    Anyways, plenty of food for thought in here, thanx again!

  102. PJ Brunet says:

    “I wasn’t aware they didn’t offer a bunch of features I’m used to, like email hosting, cPanel, phone support etc. ”

    I’m not recommending any specific web host, but if you’re serious about web hosting, I would not consider email hosting in your decision. (In my experience, most people don’t.) I would deliberately seek out a separate company/server for your email. First, it’s a completely random drain on your website’s resources (you never know when spammers will strike) and just another attack vector, as email servers are notoriously unwieldy, which is why email hosting isn’t free! There’s risk involved too, getting blacklisted is no joke. The other issue with email hosting: Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have a virtual monopoly on deliverability. Imagine an invisible checkpoint that 99.9% of all email must cross. If you’re not sending from a G.Y.M. account, you’re at a disadvantage. I assume the FTC will step in eventually (GYM ultimately decides if your email gets to somebody’s inbox, which should be illegal) but till then we have to deal with reality. If my server sends contact form feedback via sendmail, those emails have been flagged as spam. Because the IP address hasn’t “warmed up” sufficiently? I’m not making this up, just Google it. So GYM’s spam-filtering algorithms could be working against you if you decide to host your own email. Think about it, a Microsoft mail client is more likely to trust a Yahoo mail client or a Google mail client because each of them trusts the other two. If you’re hosting your own email, now you’re outside that ring of trust. The other problem is, doing your own spam filtering is not easy. You don’t have billions of email accounts to “anonymously” monitor and billions of dollars of resources to monitor these billions of email accounts. In other words, your fly-by-night spam filtering algorithm will always be a day late and a dollar short, too strict or too lenient, either way your users will complain, either an important email was flagged as spam or the spam that gets through is annoying. So when you use Gmail and you hardly see any spam, that’s not easy to accomplish on your own.

    As far as Cpanel, it’s a waste of resources for most people. Unnecessary complexity, potential attack vector, etc. Lets make the server more bloated! The reality is, you only need Cpanel to manage one or two configuration files. Hardly anyone needs the other bells and whistles. Do you trust Cpanel to gets those config files right and what are you sacrificing to get there? Last I checked, Cpanel doesn’t jive well with Nginx, etc. Cpanel is basically obsolete since VPS overtook the “shared” model, like using a rotary telephone, a throwback for decrepit webmasters holding onto a past that no longer exists.

  103. David Hall says:

    Jerry, seconded on Liquidweb. I’ve just migrated away from them, I had one of their VPS plans, to WebSynthesis by Copyblogger and boy, at time of writing, I’m feeling burned. One vitally important aspect of my site is currently broken. I’m on day two of a tortuous email exchange with their “support.” You wait and you wait hours and hours for a reply but you tell yourself, because this is all you’ve heard, that these are the WordPress experts so when the reply comes it’ll either be excellent or else it’ll be to tell you that they’ve fixed the problem. Not so.

    I’ve just shot off another one and god knows when I’ll be hearing from them. If I had stayed with LiquidWeb, which was also fast (and cheaper), I know one of their support people would have seen me back up in business within minutes. Officially they don’t support plugin issues etc but in my experience they will, under their “best effort” policy, get their hands dirty for you and get you back in action in jig time. I actually felt a little bad leaving them but I’d read so much hype about specialist WordPress hosting that I decided to pony up and pay the extra for something better.

    If they don’t begin to show that they care about my site I’m taking it off Synthesis and either back to LiquidWeb or perhaps I’ll try another specialist WordPress host but either way I’m not hanging around for more highly expensive but rubbish service. To be fair to Copyblogger and Synthesis the site is running pretty fast but it was running pretty fast on LiquidWeb too, without all the much trumpeted WordPress optimisations, and the only difference I can notice is that instead of truly superb support, LiquidWeb, I now have garbage support and my wallet is quite a few dollars lighter for my troubles.

    So before getting carried away on a sea of hype about the benefits of “expert” and “specialised” WordPress hosting support there’s a lot to be said for making sure not to overvalue these buzzwords and not to undervalue a topnotch VPS with a premium provider who will be there for you 24/7 with excellent support people who are courteous and polite and most of all very helpful. I am not in any way an affiliate or connected to LiquidWeb but I’m only gone from the just over a week and Web-Synthesis make me feel very nostalgic for them.

  104. Ian Edge says:

    PJ have to say I have enjoyed reading your well informed comments in this thread. Very entertaining and enlightening. I do websites for local businesses near me in the uk, so focus on that side of things. Wish I had the time and skills to do the server tweaking and database manipulations. What sort of solution would you recommend to someone like me. I havent got the cash for these top end managed solutions or the time to learn the linux needed to be secure. Maybe a vps with some one off server hardening by a pro? Any advice appreciated

  105. Bob G says:

    After far too much research, including at this site, I went with Lightning Base without trying any of the alternatives listed here. It’s now been a couple of months and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. It would be hard for me to believe any of the others could be faster than Lightning Base or have better service, both of which have been amazing. Chris is exceptionally knowledgeable and generous with his support. Anyone reading this thread should check them out.

  106. Sterling says:

    I just went through two weeks of some of the most painful problems with WPEngine. Both support and documentation frequently led me astray, was painfully slow or kept passing the buck.

    I finally switched to Flywheel hosting and it was a night and day experience. Everything WPEngine got wrong, Flywheel got right.

    There were plugins I was using, when I started having trouble at WPEngine, that had even updated their plugin description to say “Didn’t work with WPEngine”. Finally, support flat out told me that WPEngine didn’t work well with any of the membership plugins. No mention of this anywhere in their docs.

  107. Daryn says:

    Hi Jacques. I recently had a pretty bad experience with WP Engine as well and came across your post while searching around to see if others had the same issues I did. The fact that I am writing this in 2014 and some of these issues have not been sorted out yet is a concern.

    Here’s where things went south for me:

    I work for a small firm that has successfully setup loads of websites with WP Engine. From my experience, it’s really good for small, single, non-multisite sites. They’ve improved their server performance (from what I can tell) and I encounter few issues. I’ve encountered the redirect loop issue a few times, which STILL happens today, but by now there are tons of resources online that explain how to fix it yourself. Anything that allows me to avoid submitting a support ticket or opening livechat is passable for me. I have the expertise to figure a lot of things out myself.

    Where WP Engine goes south is when you use it with a multisite installation. Multisite on its own proves to be a real pain in the ass and I try to avoid it at all costs. I had a client that was making tons of content changes to the staging version of their website, while I revamped their theme and made a bunch of UI changes. When all was said and done, I figured I could utilize their deployment tool to copy the site from staging to live.

    This failed absolutely miserably.

    When I copied the site over, the site I was working on AND the other site under the same multisite umbrella were completely broken. WordPress disassociated both the theme and menus, and somehow overwrote the other site I was never working on with the theme I had been editing for the site I WAS working on.

    So I get on WP Engine livechat. I speak to a ground level tech and he’s unable to sort things out. So it gets elevated and I now have an upper tier tech working alongside him. This goes on for about 3.5 hours.

    Long story short, they ended up having to roll both websites back to the period right before I ran the deployment tool. WP Engine has a nice feature that automatically backs up the sites right before a deployment runs so that you can log into if you have to and roll things back. I was even cautious of their rollback tool because of how poorly the deployment/copy tool worked.

    Their explanation? They basically said that when I use that deployment tool it was deploying everything within the multisite umbrella again. So this somehow pretty much overwrote everything on both sites AND broke it. The problem though is that I accessed the deployment tool via the site I was working on’s WP admin panel, which gives absolutely no warning when it comes to multisite. It basically assumes that you know how it will behave.

    I would never personally use their services and I won’t ever touch their deployment/copy tool ever again. Other than that and their technical knowledge being a little slow and behind, I’ve had pretty good luck with them. I think a lot of my issues can be contributed to the shoddy way that WordPress handles multisite as well, so it’s not entirely on WP Engine.

    tl;dr: WP Engine + WordPress multisite = potential nightmare.

  108. Daryn says:

    I posted a separate reply further down but had to reply to you as well.

    Hosting your own mail server is one of the worst things on the face of planet earth. As soon as it gets inundated with spammers, your overall performance goes into the toilet. You are also your own tech when emails stop being delivered to their destination and you have zero idea as to why.

    I helped manage a dedicated server once that also had a mail server (we took over the server, otherwise we never would’ve hosted email on it as well) and it was one of the worst experiences ever. We had to constantly clear out a queue and review the spam filters.

  109. Woodie says:

    I had a client who decided on WPEngine for hosting after I developed their site. I ran into many of the same problems people have already documented here. Instructions that flat out don’t work. Outdated documentation. They also installed WordPress as multisite by default and it took them three tries over several hours to undo this and fix the redirect errors this caused.

    Then the plugin problems. I was using a simple jQuery based slider that was failing to animate. Their support found the console error and then pointed me to an unrelated article about how someone else, using their own custom code, got that error. Their support thought the error messages means the same source problem regardless of code. In this case I found the real problem was that their servers were truncating the Javascript code in the footer. They couldn’t figure out a solution after a day.

    The client decided to move at this point to another hosting company.

    My personal bad news is that this is starting all over again with another client…

  110. LightningBase is worth checking out. Support is awesome and you won’t find any negative reviews about them.

  111. Oscar Polat says:

    I agree with everything you say. I wish I red your blog before signing up with wpengine and wasting 6 months and (79$ x 3 + 105 x 3) . Migration of my site was a nightmare and they did not help at all. I just don’t understand how they have so many happy customers? Is there something wrong with me I wonder.

  112. ob says:

    Right, but Disqus comments are bound to your blog.. So from a user perspective what’s the difference? They’re coming to your blog.

  113. Dorian says:


    Upfront, I’m not tech, but this has been a most enlightening read. I recently moved my site onto the WP platform, using WPE as our host. I now need to add a backend database to our site, for which the data management framework needs to sit outside WordPress. WPE won’t support it, I now discover. (Yup, didn’t ask the question at the time). My db dev guy says I need a normal LAMP stack hosting account that doesn’t have the restrictions of WPE. My site is small ie hundreds, not thousands of visitors p/d. I’d really appreciate any suggestions as to a suitable host please.

    Many thanks in advance

  114. Jessica says:

    Incredibly happy I found this article after host hopping for past 3 years trying to find a solution for our seasonal site (tax related forum) in which our DB gets hammered with 1000+ comments per hour (thats not a typo) and users hitting refresh every few seconds. Why? Because they use our site like a chat room resulting in the cache busting scenario that WPE says not much to do but upgrade to their 3300/mo plan. Hell no when I’m getting 47k 504s in a day do I trust what they say. I had the same nightmare with WPE and am hunting for a solution. Unfortunately, I’m learning this stuff as I go and WPE was able to run their number on me because of my “only know enough to be dangerous” level of knowledge. I have been told over and over to use 3rd party for comments, but NOBODY has understood what Jacques said, our users don’t want it. They like WP native commenting and like anonymity. Comments ARE our content, they are our king and I’m not giving them away to 3rd party who also limits our design/display of such. I have been told to partition comments database, but can’t figure out how to do this efficiently and how to maintain. Most recently, I have been directed to AWS using EC2 and RDS, and I’m again learning as I go with this route. Feeling more confident that I am going to divorce WPE soon, but scared to death of what will happen next season. I am convinced that our host hopping and downtime on peak days is driving out our traffic— to where? Our FB page and well that does us no good and is a beast to manage comments at that same volume.

    I know this article is quite old, but if anyone has advice on a possible direction to head, I’m all ears. If I continue on this path of learning the stuff myself, I want to be going the right direction. As of now, I’m steadfast on the idea that if we want it done right, do it ourself. Who is ourself? Me, just me— managing this after blooming from a stay at home mom idea that never thought would explode.
    Partition? AWS? which route? I cannot afford 47+ 504 errors per day next tax season
    Thanks. Praying that Jacque has the solution since he is the only one I have found with a similar situation using WordPress.

  115. Perry says:

    Hi Dorian

    Not sure if you’re sorted yet, but we had exactly the same experience as you at WPE- no support for Lampstack. We’ve now moved over to Lightningbase and all I can say is I can recommend them wholeheartedly.


  116. Oscar Polat says:

    I switched to digitalocean and linode. I have sites on both platforms. It was a big learning curve but follow the tutorials and you will be there. You don’t need wpengine.

  117. Sterling says:


    Try having a direct conversation with the folks at They are a smaller organization with great customer service and I have found they are really good at having conversations about specific needs. Give them a call. I have been using them for a more than a year now after switching from WPE.

  118. Neil says:

    A great read Jacques – even though the post might be almost 3 years old so much of it still rings true.

    We’ve found WP Engine to have really poor performance compared to hosting and managing it ourself on Digital Ocean. When you look at the prices it’s insane what they’re charging – people are just getting caught up in the hype I think.

  119. Junior says:

    We are using WPE here in your company since last year.
    We are having a lot of problems related to:

    – lock your ip.
    – change your files.
    – a long time to be attended on chats. waiting… waiting… waiting…
    – the first level of support doesn’t know nothing about wp.

    There a lot of situations that is very stressful for us during your experience with WPE.

    This week we decided to go away. Probably moving sites to Amazon.
    A little hard to configure, but better.


  120. Sean Dempsey says:

    Great article. We posted a link to this experience on our blog article detailing why WPEngine is not the best solution for web and marketing agencies.

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