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).
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
- Los Angeles
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
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
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.