What Is WP Engine?

Austin Gunter Explains Managed WordPress Hosting

Austin Gunter - WP Engine
Austin Gunter - WP Engine. Courtesy of Austin Gunter

WP Engine is a leading web host in the managed WordPress host category. In this feature interview, Austin Gunter explains the ins-and-outs of web hosting. Read the full WP Engine Review.

Bryan Haines: When choosing a Web host, what does a business owner need to know?

Austin Gunter: Hosting runs the gamut of technical details, and not every business owner has the time to research hosting from the ground up.

The first decision to make is what software you want the site built on. At this point, WordPress powers about 18% of the Internet because it is the software of choice for business owners who want a clean and beautifully designed website that is easy for them to update. WordPress fits the bill and is also a secure solution that protects sensitive data online.

The next step should be to go with a WordPress-exclusive hosting company, or a Managed WordPress Host. That means a company that specializes only in WordPress, so they've built their technology from the ground up for performance and security. Not hosting with a managed WordPress host would be like taking your taxes to your lawyer to do - you wouldn't get great results.

Many times, hosting is an afterthought and the decision gets made based on how cheaply hosting can be purchased. Cheap or shared hosting that will leave them hanging when they get a lot of traffic or someone tries to hack their site.

Business owners need a fast and clean website that looks beautiful and represents their brand. The most important keyword is "Managed Hosting." That means the hosting company has enterprise-quality servers that are fast and scalable, and it means the business owner gets the benefit of having enterprise-level SysAdmins running the servers.

You can expect to pay more for this sort of quality, but the alternative is paying $6 a month for a slow website that doesn't impress your customers.

Managed Hosting also means the company takes care of all the security on your behalf. Companies like WP Engine actually guarantee the security of your site so if you're hacked, the hosting company will cover the clean-up costs, which can be thousands of dollars, depending on the size of the site.

Bryan Haines: What features really matter, when sorting through all of the options and features?

Austin Gunter: This depends on what you need for your particular business. Support is probably the "feature" that will make the biggest difference in your hosting experience. When you need help with your site, you want to talk to brilliant geeky people who can solve your technical issues quickly, and are patient to help you figure things out. Since you're hosting on WordPress, make sure the support team is comprised of WordPress experts, so they can fix not just the servers, but the site as well.

Look for a host that automatically creates backups of your site every day, AND doesn't charge you for the pleasure (some will). Then look for a company that has a staging area, and an option for version control.

Trust me, your developer and designer will thank you for that.

Bryan Haines: What do you offer that sets you apart from the other web hosts?

Austin Gunter: WP Engine has some of the best support for Managed WordPress Hosting on the internet. We have more support engineer per customer than anyone else, and each one of them has years of WordPress experience. We are also the only company that guarantees our security. At this point, you should assume your WordPress host is incredibly fast and scalable under high traffic load, but WP Engine has some secret sauce in our technology called EverCache that means WordPress sites that host with us are blisteringly fast and incredibly scalable. Get that huge spike of traffic, and your site will never go down.

WP Engine is the only Managed Platform for WordPress.

That means we've built our service with businesses who want to build ambitious projects with WordPress, and for the developers who need amazing tools to build not just blogs, but full-scale websites and applications on WordPress. For example, we have a one-click staging area as well as Git-Push for version control.

You can fully customize your theme and use the plugins that you choose on WP Engine, but you still get managed security and speed. It's the best of both worlds.

Bryan Haines: Can the choice of a web host affect the SEO of an individual site?

Austin Gunter: Absolutely. Google takes site speed into account with their search algorithm because they have found that every additional 100ms of page-load time means a 20% drop in traffic. The longer your site takes to load, the more visitors will abandon the site and go about their day. You want a host that is capable of serving pages in 1.5 seconds or less. Business owners who migrate to WP Engine see their sites load an average of 2x-4x faster, and notice an immediate increase in their search engine results.

Bryan Haines: How important are the uptime percentages that web hosts frequently display? How much difference is there really, between the different hosts? How is the reliability of WP Engine?

Austin Gunter: Uptime is critical, but measuring it can be tricky and increasing uptime those last few percentage points a big challenge. Hosts usually advertise somewhere between 99% to 99.999% uptime. Assuming a 365-day cycle, 99% uptime actually means several days of unscheduled (read, not scheduled maintenance) downtime for your sites. That means 99.999% brings your site down to only a few hours of downtime for that year. That's the difference between paying for a shared host and paying more for a managed host that will give you at least 99.99% uptime. To get to 100% uptime would require tens of thousands of dollars a month in hosting and sysadmin time. The intersection between cost and uptime is where most business owners find themselves, and that's why a managed host is again the choice of more and more business owners. They can pay five or six times more than a shared host would cost and get a slice of enterprise hosting that would otherwise cost tens of thousands a month.

Bryan Haines: Do you offer simplified blog setup/hosting/maintenance?

Austin Gunter: Absolutely. You get a fully installed WordPress site, and we'll manage WordPress updates, the security, and scalability. All you need to do is set up the theme and put your branding on there. It's never been easier to get your business online.

Bryan Haines: What backup tool do you recommend for Wordpress blogs?

Austin Gunter: We have our own backups that we create nightly. However, my feelings are never hurt when our customers opt for redundant backups and use something like Backup Buddy. You can't go wrong there.

Bryan Haines: Can a site hosted elsewhere be moved to your servers? How can this be done?

Austin Gunter: As long as the site is WordPress-based, you can migrate it over to our servers easily. We'll even help with migration if need be. Many people choose to migrate on their own, or have their developer do it, but for a flat fee, we can take care of it.

Bryan Haines: What level of support do you offer with your base package?

Austin Gunter: We offer full support in Zendesk by WordPress experts. We answer most tickets within 30 minutes and get you back online. For the Business Package, which many companies opt for, you'll get phone support and can even opt for a dedicated account manager so they always talk to the same person when they have a question.