For the past 2 years, we’ve sold over 9k licenses of our themes, and we are proud of what we’ve succeeded to achieve. Our themes are very competitive, have a LOT of features, and they also have excellent ratings when it comes to loading speed.
Nevertheless, over the past two years, some clients have complained that their website is slow. Sometimes it is a just a matter of settings, images too large or other small tweaks. But most of the times the site slowness is simply just a consequence of poor hosting choice.
Several big names on the market sell shared monthly hosting packages from $2 to $10. But these packages come with severe problems and limits.
The business model of such a company is: they add/buy/rent a server in a data center (you can rent one for $60-$70 a month), and then add shared accounts on it. Hundreds of them. They need that to be profitable and keep the low prices.
The only way this setup can work is by limiting the resources for each shared account. They have to limit the bandwidth, storage, memory, process, etc. When our clients have a speed issue problem and report it to the hosting company, they will always answer: “The theme you are using consumes too many resources”. They don’t even bother to check if the theme consumes those resources or if there are 3rd party plugins that do that (for example WPML is a well-known memory eater).
At this point, it is challenging for us to explain to the client that his hosting company gives a sh** answer and that their support staff is either incompetent or doesn’t care. We usually show our demos and show live how fast is loading there. We have a demo with 2500 listings that can be found here: http://demo3.wpresidence.net/ and that according to gtmeritx has a loading time of around 4.4 sec. But our demos are on the company dedicated server, and some may argue that they don’t know how to setup & maintain such a server, that they don’t need one or that we do something “special” to the demos to load fast.
To help these clients, we’ve decided to do market research, test some hosting companies and come with 3rd party solution for those who want a good & tested option. After doing several tests, we picked our winner. And we chose WP Engine
Our test details
WP Engine is a company that focuses on hosting WordPress only and, very important, offers managed solutions. Managed hosting means there is someone to take care of your website. The only complaint you may have about it is that they have more expensive offers than other big hosting companies.
Their start pack is $29 per month (you get 4 months off if you go for the annual purchase). That is 2-3 times more money than you usually pay for what you consider to be good shared hosting. But you get 10 times more value in return.
Since we wanted to test their platform before recommending it to our clients, we contacted a sale representative and asked for a free account. We did not get one 🙂 But in the end, this was a good thing since we were forced to do the test as any regular user would do.
So we signed up, filled all the forms and paid for the first month via credit card. We were a little disappointed that there was no Paypal option, but we moved on since this was not an important detail.
How to move an entire database
The test plan was pretty simple – get the content of the 2.5k demo from here http://demo3.wpresidence.net, move it to the WP Engine, install and test the site speed. Naturally, we were prepared for some long hours to move all that data (there are almost 6GB of images and data + an extensive database).
But we were pleasantly surprised to find out that WP Engine had a migration plugin that was very simple to setup and use. I will not go into much details about how this is working, but they do have a nice video presentation that you can watch if you need this.
Here is a screen capture from the migration plugin page
We installed that plugin on the demo3.wpresidence.org, filled up some details like the new server address, password, etc. and started the move. We were expecting some problems, but the whole process was very smooth. It took around 2-3 hours for the entire site to be copied and installed at the new location.
We didn’t have to do anything else!!! From time to time we just watched the progress bar moving and, after a while, boom: everything was done. The database was moved, properties & images were moved, our theme and plugins were installed and activated just like on the original website. That was the best experience I’ve ever had with a hosting company.
Here is a screenshot of the actual install
Next step was to check the speed of the website. The testing domain on WP Engine is http://crerem.wpengine.com/ (they offer you a free subdomain until you move the DNS of your domain.).
Visually, the site was loading fast – same speed as we have on our dedicated server. But since visual confirmation is not enough, we did a test with gtmetrix.
And it was fast: 3.1 seconds, even better than our demo3.wpresidence.org. Here is the testing link https://gtmetrix.com/reports/crerem.wpengine.com/3Xrf63Qg.
The 3.1 sec loading time of the WP Engine demo was obtained after we activated the built-in cache. Without that cache enabled we got a 4 sec loading time.
Here is a screen capture from our account with the cache option:
After these initial results, we tested several pages – from properties list, to search results, properties page, etc. All were loaded fast and with no problems. We also have activated the 3 plugins that come with the theme along with other monitor plugins. You can see it in this screenshot.
The PHP version of this test is 5.5.9 and MySQL is 5.6.28. Memory Usage for this setup was 46,347,984 bytes – (data reported by debug bar plugin).
Also please note – that the domain crerem.wpengine.com will stay active for a limited period. We cannot keep it since it is just for testing.
I’m not saying that all shared hosting packages are wrong and you should stay away from them. But many of them are, and there are significant chances you are using one. If you have problems with your site speed using one of our themes, please consider looking over this article first: http://help.wpresidence.net/2015/12/09/how-to-improve-my-website-speed-my-website-is-too-slow/. If you still have issues after doing every item on the list, and you are on a shared hosting account, you should move to WP Engine, get a virtual private server, a dedicated server or move to another company that you trust.
Also, the shared hosting packages are good if you have a simple website or blog that does not have too much traffic. But in our themes you have tons of features, google maps, complex search algorithms etc and all of these require a little more.
Disclaimer: since we are thrilled about our experience with WP Engine we decided to promote them. So the links that point to their site may contain affiliate code, and that means we will get a commission if you signup to their services using these link.
Also, you may want to read this article before doing signing up: https://wpengine.com/support/email-recommendations-from-wp-engine/