I used to pick hosting companies for WordPress websites in a similar fashion to how I approached many purchases: pick the cheapest option available that doesn’t entirely suck.
In fact, back when I started as a freelance web designer, I sold websites for as little as $500 to $1000, and would juggle up to 8 projects at the same time; wondering if everyone else was finding it as difficult as I was to make a living. Looking back at my finances, and many details of my life, I still wonder how I made it work.
Fast forward a few years later: I was then a full-time WordPress developer, working exclusively for (very) small business clients and recommending one of the most popular hosts to all my clients. Back then, BlueHost was a particularly great offer because they allowed to host unlimited web content, they featured a single-click WordPress install script and along with many other features it still only cost a flat $80 or so per year. In fact, that offer still is great and for people on a super tight budget or wanting to test all sorts of technologies out, I recommend it highly.
Eventually things started to evolve for me professionally and I got hired to build websites for larger accounts, including some giants like Ubisoft and McKesson. Thanks to a lot of coaching from some business geniuses like Kate Blake, I raised my prices and made some serious improvements to how I did business. Now that I was living above the official poverty line, I was finally able to take the time to fix many important details of my profession and to start revising my “cheapest is best” policy.
While working on BlueHost for a family building a private media sharing project that eventually evolved into my TribeChest system, something very disturbing happened. Some sort of script started creating sites on my WordPress Multisite Network and uploading tons of files. Additionally, my backup scripts were duplicating all this content, and it was starting to grow seriously big. It went unnoticed for a couple days until all of sudden my website stopped loading. I checked some client sites I was hosting and they were down too! Their twitter feed didn’t report any downtime so I knew something was up. This happened around 10pm on a weekend but of course I called BlueHost immediately to find out what was happening. They told me that I was abusing my right to unlimited content and that 120GBs was simply not reasonable as per their contract. Until I trimmed back down to at least 20GB or so they would have to keep my account frozen.
To make things worse, my FTP accounts were frozen too and my cPanel access was limited. Long story short, they really didn’t make it easy for me and it took a lot of work and phone calls to get things up and running again. Technically nothing was lost, but my faith in their service would never be the same after that. I decided it was time to choose a more premium hosting solution that wouldn’t let me down and treat me and my clients like another stat number when times got rough.
I searched high and wide and read about 20 full-page reviews on the top 5 companies I found. It seemed like all the hype was around WP Engine, a company that had reached out to me personally six months prior to offer me a free-forever account in exchange for answering some targeted questions about my expectations regarding a WordPress-dedicated host. The only truly negative review I read about WP Engine was from an untalented developer who was using the default WordPress comments widget as a chat-room on his website, causing hundreds of thousands of database queries per second for no reason. He easily could have easily fixed it by paying as little as $100 to any legitimate WordPress developer on oDesk, but instead he decided to bash WP Engine and Pagely and pretty much everyone rather than fixing his own mistake.
This made me confident enough to give WP Engine $1000 and start a year’s trial at the account level I needed to begin my journey into premium managed dedicated WordPress hosting by the people whom everyone claimed to be the best.
It took me a month or so to become totally familiar with all their tools and features:
After a year of hosting my websites at WP Engine… well, I really couldn’t be more content. There is not a single ticket that went unanswered and they even helped me solve some development conundrums that they honestly didn’t have to.
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