Comparing Managed WordPress Hosting Providers – ZippyKid vs WPEngine

Introduction

During the next few paragraphs I will share who is the best managed WordPress hosting provider.  A few months ago I started to spend a lot of time managing the infrastructure of my WordPress’ clients.  In reality I was spending my time in things that did not bring value to my clients’ organizations. Worrying about having backups, making sure load times were reasonable for Google, updating plug-ins and testing the updates and other infrastructure tasks. Certainly not having backups is a risk for any organization. This is why I started to research managed WordPress hosting providers.

Why the test?

The issue then was which hosting provider I was supposed to choose.  There were a few options and all of them claim the speediest, best infrastructure and top-notch customer service. Because of the many options, I decided to sign-up for all the main players and few minor players to test them.

Who’s on the test?

In this test we are using:

–          Zippy Kid (www.zippykid.com)

They offer an option for low traffic websites which my clients really like and they claim the speedy servers others in the industry have.

–          WP Engine (www.wpengine.com)

They seem to be the Cadillac of the WordPress hosting providers.  Their offerings are a little more pricey, but they have a feature that no-one else have – Staging Area very cool feature. I will talk about staging areas in a separate post.

–          Amazon AWS (aws.amazon.com)

Amazon AWS is my current WordPress provider. It is not a managed hosted solution, but at this point Amazon is my control group.  Is extremely inexpensive, but you have to manage EVERYTHING about the server.

–          Media Template (www.mediatemple.net)

Media Template is the least expensive from the group, but one of the providers with the best user interface out there.  Media Template basic offer of $20 USD a month will allow you to have as many as 99 WordPress sites.  There is nothing cheaper than this. The caveat is, you have to manage everything about the WordPress installation, not the server, but the configuration of WordPress (including security updates).

Methodology

For testing of the websites I utilized WebSitePulse (www.websitepulse.com).  The two monitor types were Full-page website monitoring and Performance website monitoring.

Full-page website monitoring simulates first-time user experience. This monitoring agent performs a specified request and downloads the header, all HTML web page content, all images and all other embedded objects, simulating first-time user of the website. In the testing results below you will see Full-page graphs denoted with FP.

Performance website monitoring simulates repeat user experience. This monitoring agent performs a specified request and downloads the header and all HTML web page contents without images and other embedded objects, simulating repeat user to your web site.  In the testing results below you will see the Performance website results denoted with Repeat.

The website to be tested is my own personal blog. The blog has been up and running with Amazon AWS for over 2 years.  Amazon serves as our control group and point of comparison for any other WordPress hosting provider that claims to be the best in the WordPress hosting business.

All hosting providers will have the same website, with the same images.  The only page to be tested will be the home page of the blog.  It will be tested from the same location around the United States.

FP monitors will be triggered every 15 minutes, for a total of 96 page loads per day and all day results will be averaged out.  The Repeat monitor will be triggered every 5 minutes, for a total of 288 page loads per day and all day results will be averaged out.

The testing locations are:

–          New York

–          Miami

–          Los Angeles

–          Chicago

Categories

I separated the test in a few categories to make it easy for scoring. Full page load speed referenced as FP as denoted in the methodology section. Repeat page load speed referenced as Repeat as denoted in the methodology section.  Customer service is my own experience with the customer service of each company.

Full Page Load Speed

Amazon AWS vs Media Teamplate for WordPress Hosting

Amazon AWS vs Media Teamplate for WordPress Hosting

As everyone guessed, MT is the cheapest one and the slowest one as well.  During the week of 9.12.11 to 9.18.11 Amazon AWS was averaging 2.34 seconds page load and MT was averaging 4.428.   This is double what I have, so basically this took MT out of the race.  If you are looking for very economical WordPress hosting solution, you can use MT.  Don’t expect your pages to load blazing fast; just expect to pay a few bucks for hosting.

Here are the real contenders.  As you can see during a 4 day period, Amazon averaged 1.955 seconds, ZippyKid averaged 1.442 and WP Engine averaged 2.371.  To be fair to WP Engine, I think they had a technical issue on 9/22/11, so I am reducing their time to 1.251 seconds average full-page download for WP Engine (I did this by using the slowest point of the series instead of the average issue date data).  This result makes WP Engine the fastest for full-page download for this experiment.  ZippyKid is the second fastest with 1.442 seconds average full-page download.

Repeat Page Load Speed

Hosting Comparison Table and Graph

Hosting Comparison Table and Graph

All parties except the control provider (Amazon) did well on the repeat option.

Amazon AWS: 0.751 second per Repeat request

ZippyKid: 0.387 second per Repeat request

WP Engine: 0.373 second per Repeat request

WP Engine came above ZippyKid for about 100 milliseconds.

Customer Service

For customer service, there are no black and white metrics. Below you will read my opinion based on the service that I obtained from the 4 providers.  Here it is:

  1. Amazon AWS: to get Amazon AWS support you have to pay a premium, which I did not.  So in this case, I received no support directly from Amazon.  All support was obtained through WordPress forums and some of my peers.
  2. Media Template:  Media template has 24×7 phone technical support.  They moved really quick to answer my questions, but they could not answer any specific question in WordPress technology.  At the end of the day, they are good general hosting company, but they don’t specialize in WordPress as WP Engine and ZippyKid does.
  3. ZippyKid: ZippyKid uses ZenDesk for support.  They answer questions during the weekend and they really know WordPress.  ZippyKid really impressed me with their phone support. They are the only WordPress hosting provider that advertises a phone number.  I tried the number and it works.  The phone call was field by a very knowledgeable WordPress expert.  In terms of support, I think ZippyKid realy goes above and beyond.  Hopefully when they grow they will keep the same service.
  4. WP Engine: WP Engine uses ZenDesk for support.  Their answers are slower than ZippyKid, but they do answer.  There were no responses during the weekend, but I don’t think I put any request to be answers on the weekend either, so I am not sure if they have weekend service. There is no such thing as phone support for WP Engine, is all through email.

Opinion

I have to say that I enjoyed working with both ZippyKid and WPEngine.  They both have personalized and knowledgeable people on staff.  As for Amazon and Media Template they are after the bulk market, not so much the WordPress group.

I decided to go with ZippyKid because of the Cost, Customer Service, and the speed was almost as good as WPEngine.  ZippyKid was 200ms slower for full-page and 100ms slower for repeat visitors.  This meant for me to pay $49 dollars a month to be 200ms faster or $20 for ZippyKid and having a phone number to call in case something goes wrong.

Hopefully this report will help other people make a decision on which WordPress Hosting provider is best for them.

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19 Responses to “Comparing Managed WordPress Hosting Providers – ZippyKid vs WPEngine”

  1. Jason Cohen November 4, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    Thanks for reviewing us!

    BTW we (WP Engine) do have a customer support phone number, but you’re right we don’t advertise it on the website. We should!

    Other than that, great analysis, and by the way although we’re competitors, we agree that ZippyKid provides a terrific service too.

    • gkiragiannis November 4, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

      Hi Jason, thanks for your note and for clarifying the phone number for support. BTW. I really like your (WP Engine) staging technology, that was well thought.

      Geo

  2. O. Medina November 7, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

    Georgio:

    [ES] Para mi lo más importante es el servicio. No me preocupo mucho por la velocidad porque al momento de haber problemas técnicos, puedes perder más en no resolverlos rápido que en tener rápido una página que está publicando mal. Como especialista en publicidad, aquel que no anuncia su número no es de fiar, al igual que aquel que no pone la información de contacto física y postal en su website comercial. No puede haber confianza en una empresa así. Todo servicio tiene que ser transparente o hay que desconfiar a priori. Como profesionales no podemos ser tan inocentes. Hay que proteger los intereses de nuestros clientes. Muy buen artículo para los que estamos manejando ese programa.
    —————
    [EN] For me first come the service. I don’t worry too much about speed because when you have technical problems, you can lose more if they are not resolved than having a page being published a few seconds faster but not working properly. As an specialist in advertising and marketing, someone who does not announce its phone number is someone not to trust. Like the company who does not put the information of its physical and/or postal address for contact in his commercial website. I can’t have confidence on a company like that. All services must be transparent or is a must to distrust this business at first impression. As professionals we can’t be so naive. We must protect our clients businesses. Very good article for clients and those who handle that cms.

    =:-) O. Medina

    • gkiragiannis November 8, 2011 at 9:18 am #

      In honor of my native language I will reply to Medina only in Spanish –

      Estimado Medina, muchas gracias por tu comentario y por pasar el tiempo de traducirlo. Tienes razón en cuanto la transparencia de las empresas virtuales. Es importante demostrar confianza en esta era dónde cualquiera puede vender algo por medio del Internet.

      Gracias, Geo

  3. Vid Luther November 7, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

    Thanks for this review Georgios. I’m glad to see us do so well, I knew we would. It’s great to see WPEngine and ZippyKid, do so much better than the larger companies like Amazon and Media Temple. Both WPEngine and ZippyKid are the leaders in WordPress Hosting, independent reviews like this help us figure out what people want, and what we can do to improve. From afar, people consider Jason and I as competitors, but we’re both rooting for each other, and big fans of our services.

    • gkiragiannis November 8, 2011 at 9:25 am #

      Hi Vid,

      Thanks for your comment. Just to clarify, I am not implying that Amazon is a worst option than WPEngine or ZippyKid. Amazon happens to be my current provider before the migration. When you do something with Amazon AWS you are responsible for the architecture of the solution. Something that Managed hosting providers take care for you. I am sure that with enough Elastic Computing Units in Amazon you could make an amazing WordPress platform. Is all about the amount of clients that will take you to reach that break even point.

      Either way, I really enjoyed working with ZippyKid and WPEngine. I think it shines when companies specialize in a given technology.

      Thanks for your comment. Geo

  4. Jimmy Tango February 22, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    I’m late to the game here but I am trying to choose between Zippykid and wp engine. As suggested this is a neck and neck race. Fortunately, WP Engine has a $20 plan now and a support number posted. So the question I have for you is given the results which would you go with now? (as your objections are addressed by wp engine)

    Thanks for the great post.

    • gkiragiannis February 23, 2012 at 9:15 am #

      Hi Jimmy, Thanks for reading. Also, thanks for letting me know that WP Engine posted a phone number and they spawned a new plan. I see on their website that the new plan is $29/mo for 1 site. This is great news.

      To address your question, I think the real answer is “it depends”. If you are after managing multiple low traffic clients and you don’t want to take care of infrastructure, I still go with ZippyKid. The first site with ZippyKid is $20/mo, but any additional site is just $5/m.

      Now, if the site you are hosting will require multiple updates a year, I will take advantage of WP Engine staging technology. You pay more for it, but that is a real hassle on web publishing.

      Let me know if I can be of any further help.

      Geo

  5. Hi there,

    thank you for this review. Its helping me make a decision on going with zippykid possibly.

    many thanks,
    George

  6. Nick Amiradaki June 28, 2012 at 6:36 am #

    Great review gkiragiannis,

    I’m in the process of selecting a managed wordpress host. Before reading your review I was actually considering page.ly but now you’ve thrown WP Engine and ZippyKid into the mix. Have you had any experience with page.ly? How do they compare to WP and Zippykid? I know their basic plan for $24.95 doesn’t include CDN functionality and is only suited to 10k visitors. Cheers

  7. Ahmed July 4, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    Hi folks.

    Great discussion here. Especially Zippykid’s, WPEngine’s dignity and professionalism.

    Zippykid and WPEngine is like choosing between Honda and Toyota.

    A question. This is what I am debating right now. What is that difference Zippykid/WPE provide that say Hostgator.com does not provide for WordPress hosting?

    Thank you.

  8. John Byrne July 9, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    I was going to try WP Engine, until I got a snarky response to a pre-sales question about, of all things, phone support. I was looking at their $99/mo. 10 domain plan, and was told, in choice words, that it wasn’t enough to justify having someone at the other end of the phone who was a WordPress expert. Well, this was coming from a person whose email title is “Lead Happiness Peddler”. Frankly, I wasn’t happy with the experience….

  9. Thomas August 14, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

    To John
    I am saying this as a person who we actually has a $99 a month account with WP Engine & accounts with zippy kid as well. I can say they’re both excellent. To the person who implied you were talked down to are treated rudely because you wanted to use their service. I believe the rules are this 1st make the customer happy secondly phone support is primarily for people who need it. I don’t believe the policy is set in stone as I’ve spoken to him on the phone they’ve always been more than helpful and I can’t say enough good things about them. You have to remember in fairness if a company is trying to lower costs for you by freeing up people on the phone you can always choose to pay more. However I know for fact WP engine will help you if you need help over the phone or support & e-mail. The same is true for Zippy kid I Vid said these guys are actual people that are kind and very nice to each other and especially to their customers. I think you should sign up and give them a whirl before you actually place judgment. In the future goes far as even asking the person does that mean if I’m in trouble and need your help will you not even Respond me me on the phone? I know the person that you talk to just from what you said in your message and he’s a great guy how do I know he’s helped me by talking to me on the phone and I’m sure thousands of other customers. If you were to inquire about what your needs are within reason I am sure you would be a very happy with them as a host. I think if you inquire when in doubt I am sure you will get a rational response.
    All the best guys,
    Tom

  10. Jeff August 15, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    Are there other ways to check how fast wpengine and zippykids can perform?

    • gkiragiannis September 2, 2012 at 10:38 am #

      Hi Jeff,

      I am not sure how to answer your question. From a purely technical perspective, you can always measure from within their servers, but you need more access than what a client will have. Or you can measure different account types.

      Sorry I cannot be more helpful with your question.

      Geo

  11. George September 18, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

    Its pity those great providers (wpengine / zippykid) are hosted in the USA. there is no managed wordpress for european customers :(

  12. Jeff Williams October 7, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    I have tried WPENgine and they are pretty good. I have not tried Zippykid but I did try a new one called pressracks.net . I found pressracks support to be as good if not better since they have chat support. My site was just as fast as pressracks is cloud not shared. Thier price is cheaper too so I went with them. I loved Wp engine but pressracks is just as good and cheaper. Maybe I will try zippy kid next! Anyway, your probably good with any of these services!

  13. Wendy November 8, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    Not sure if this is the right place to ask this question but here goes. First WordPress site, hosted by dreamhost and having issues with receiving emails from our online quote form. I’ve been in touch with dreamhost a few times trying to resolve the issue but have been told its because of their email security policies recently put in place (our email is not hosted there). I’m considering changing hosts and wAnted to know if anyone had any feedback comparing dreamhost to zippykid or wp engine. Thanks!

  14. Visitor December 28, 2012 at 11:56 pm #

    Problem with this analysis is that it doesn’t test how they would scale under a digg posting or slashdot. That is really what many want to know. They both seem to claim superior scalability, but I would like to see evidence of it.

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