Need for Speed: WPEngine vs Liquid Web

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Background

I decided today that it’s time to upgrade my servers. Load times make a significant impact on SEO. If your website loads too slowly (anything above 2 seconds is not good and above 6 seconds is way too slow), the user gets impatient, clicks the back button and this tells Google that you don’t provide a very good user experience. Not good for you because that means lower search ranking. I have affiliate websites where organic search results from Google is the primary driver of traffic. I haven’t counted but I probably have close to 100 websites that are hosted with Liquid Web and some of the websites are becoming a bit more sluggish than what I would have liked. My better affiliate sites earn a few thousand dollars per month and I’ve noticed some drop in rank. I don’t expect speed to be the silver bullet but my guess is that it’s going to make a difference, not to mention the improved user experience.

Now I’ve been with Liquid Web for over 2 years now and my monthly billing is at $129. I use their managed VPS solution with SSD Hard Drive and rolling back ups (it came in very handy when one of my developers made a catastrophic error). I came directly from Dreamhost (which I still use for small HTML sites) originally out of frustration that they had terrible uptime (shared servers were down for hours or even days at a time). If you’re still with Dreamhost and you have an intention of running a serious business, I would migrate away.

Search for a Solution

I also used WP Engine for a few years but ultimately cancelled because they had a lot of restrictions in place (e.g. you can’t install a lot of popular WP plugins and having to constantly look for ways around it was quite annoying). However, ultimately being happy with their speed and service, and being known as the fastest kid on the block, I thought I’d give them a shot again for one of the main affiliate website which is run on WordPress (WP Engine is a WP only hosting company).

I decided to check out the pricing page of WP Engine and it seems to have largely remained the same if I remember correctly.

A “personal” install is $29/month. You get 1 installation (one website), 25k visits, 10 GB storage, and you’re on a shared server (better to get dedicated but more difficult at this price point unless you get an unmanaged VPS). I would want CDN added which is an extra $19.95 per month — that means $48.95 in total.

“Professional” is $99/month. You get 10 installations, 100k visits, 20 GB storage, and you’re still on a shared server.

While chatting with a customer rep on WP Engine’s website, I discover that they don’t do the migration for you. At $50/month for just 1 install, it seems like something that they should do and doing a WP transfer is usually quite straightforward. This is something that Liquid Web does for you for free and for multiple websites. I didn’t want to do the migration myself so that was a bit of a deal breaker.

This is when I started to do some research and I discover that WP Engine is not as good as they’re hyped up to be (though their marketing deserves a good amount of credit). They’re actually more like somewhere in the middle and their pricing is ultimately not very competitive.

Going Back Where I Started

I decided to check with Liquid Web to see what solutions they had for CDN which runs on Akamai. The lowest pricing starts at $100/month for 1 TB of monthly data and it goes up to $8k per month for 100 TB of monthly data transfers. 1 TB for me is enough and I figure that $100 spread across 70-80 websites makes it quite a good deal.

In the end, I added the $100 CDN option for Liquid Web. If you would like any updates about this, please subscribe!

2 Comments
  • Kevin Ohashi
    June 17, 2015

    Rui,

    Glad you found my performance testing helpful. Since you’re running a VPS you actually have a lot of options in terms of speeding things up. The biggest would be adding some caching layers. You can basically do what WPEngine and other managed hosts do in most cases. The biggest performance gain would be adding some type of reverse proxy server (cache). The two most popular being Varnish and Nginx. You can also add other caches like Memcached to cache objects. There are some PHP caches (APC) or OpCode cache built into php5.5. Just a few thoughts on how you can get more out of your existing server. It’s probably not the hardware that’s slow, it’s generally the software 🙂

    • Rui Zhi
      June 18, 2015

      Cool, thanks Kevin! I’ll take a deeper look into those 😀

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