Are you comparing HostGator vs WP Engine? We recently made the switch and here’s what we learned.

The chart on this page shows the stats for a site as we moved from Host Gator to WP Engine. Host Gator was recently bought out by the huge conglomerate that also owns BlueHost (as well as others). Recently, Gator said they were “upgrading” their servers but soon after we had slower load times. Hmm. That’s the big peak on the left of the graph.

[box type=”tick”]It’s not just a question of how fast the page loads. WP Engine is managed hosting. They take care of things so you don’t have to. Backups? Automatic. Security. On top of it. Upgrades. Done.[/box]

Let’s look at just a few comparison factors from our HostGator to WP Engine hosting move.

WP Engine for fast WordPress hosting.

Average Load Time

  • HostGator: 2 to 4 seconds (used to be a steady 2 seconds, but lately it was up to 4)
  • WP Engine: 0.3 seconds (that zero-point-three!)

The site we transferred is a wedding photography site which has a photo-heavy slideshow on the home page with tons of photos–and it still loads super speedy! I thought maybe it wasn’t loading properly as it just seemed too fast to be accurate. Nope, seems to be working fine.

Cost Per Month

  • HostGator: $4
  • WP Engine: $29

Yes, it’s more expensive. Yes, it’s quite a bit more expensive. But if you look at it from the perspective of benefits and the chance that maybe you gain a new client because your site loaded faster than your competition, then it’s probably worth it.

[box type=”info”]If you’re just starting out, you don’t need WP Engine. Upgrade later when you need it.[/box]

Annual cost difference

  • Gator: $4 x 12 = $48
  • WP Engine: $29 x 12 = $348
  • A difference of $300
[box]Does your site have a revenue stream? Will it increase if your sites loads more quickly?[/box]

Feature Comparison

If you’re looking at HostGator, you’re most likely talking about shared hosting. This means your site is on a server with loads of other sites. Gator features are easy to sum up: cost. Sure, at WP Engine, you’re also not on your own dedicated server, but they have other features that make them stand out from the crowds.

WP Engine Features

  • Speed: they run built-in caching programs (so you don’t have to–in fact, you’re not even allowed to, which is a good thing)
  • Daily backups: everyday. They’re easy to restore, too. Like one button easy. No shared host can offer something like that. Even good backup plugins aren’t as easy.
  • Security: they actively search for malware to protect your site. It’s probably not you who finds a hacked site (or worse, a potential client), but they find it before it gets to you.
  • Upgrades: they will upgrade your WordPress core install for you. Just like that. Some plugins, too (but not all–which is a good thing).
  • Staging site: you can work on a new version of your site completely separately from your live site. Then move it over. Easily.
  • WP and only WP: they only host WordPress sites. That’s it. Nothing else. Think about it, they know (and love) their stuff.
  • No email: I actually consider this a feature. They don’t provide email hosting. Do you know what a pain email hosting is? Trust me, it’s a pain. Let someone else host your email.

HostGator + Plugins & Services

What if you’d like to get your Gator just a little closer to the features of WP Engine, but just can’t really shell out the $25 extra per month. Let’s look at some things you can do that are free and others that you can pay for à la carte.

  • Speed: you’re not going to get the core speed that faster server is going to get you. Period. But there are some speed tweaks you can try. W3 Total Cache does an excellent job of speeding things up as best you can with just a plugin. Free.
  • Daily Backups: I’m going to recommend Backup Buddy here as it’s the most robust and flexible of the backup plugins. You can back up to your hard drive, Amazon S3 (preferred, maybe $1/month), another server, Dropbox, etc. Choose what to back up and when. $80/year. For the free options, I’d go with WordPress Backup to Dropbox. Grab a free Dropbox account, which I can’t recommend enough anyway, and you’re on your way.
  • Security: This one is harder. There are lots of plugins, but I’d have to say I’d go with Sucuri and their constant monitoring–hey, that’s what WP Engine is doing, right? $89/year. My take is that WP Engine is pro-actively preventing malware and attacks whereas Sucuri is monitoring for attacks. I may be wrong, but that’s how I read it.
  • Upgrades: Hmm, this one is hard, too. Who’s going to do this for you? You could sign up an excellent maintenance firm like Support WP ($99/month) who also provides hosting, backups, and the upgrades. Interesting option. There’s also the Manage WP service (from ~ $24/month for Professional, but that’s for 5 sites), which not coincidentally, has quite a few of these features–and more: security scans, SEO analysis, uptime reports, performance scans, etc. Double hmm. Take it one more step and look at a service like Support WP ($99/month) who do all of this and give you an hour of maintenance work. What do you pay for your hour of consulting help?
  • Staging site: Manage WP lets you migrate a site from one place to another, so does Backup Buddy. Is it as easy as WP Engine? No.
  • WP and only WP: Yeah, that’s not going to happen. A regular hosting company hosts whatever they want.
  • No email: a host like Gator (or any host) will host your email, but I strongly recommend hosting your email separate from your host with a company like Google Apps. No, let me rephrase: with Google Apps.

Hmm, when you put them together like this, it’s less obviously “$4 vs. $29.” A quick monthly calculation would get me to:

  • $4 (Gator) +
  • $7 (BackupBuddy) +
  • $1 (Amazon S3) +
  • $5 (well, 1/5 of $24 for ManageWP) =
  • $17/month

Oh, and we’re still at Gator speeds.

Still worth saving $12/month for … a cobbled together hosting package? Who does that? Well, I do. ;-) So do most people. It works, it just takes some work, some plugins and some self-maintenance. But now we have a more obvious comparison of what we’re getting–and what we’re not.

So it comes down to how important your WordPress site is to you. Speed, uptime, security, backups (and restoration points!), and features that you just aren’t going to get at a shared hosting company. Yes, it costs more–but you get more. A lot more.

HostGator vs WP Engine

Are you comparing HostGator versus WP Engine? We just switched.