Are you thinking about signing up for a new web host, but can't decide between WP Engine or a shared HostGator plan? Check out this brief comparison to help you decide which web host is better for your needs!
WP Engine is still fairly new to the scene having only been in existence since March of 2010. Due to this, their reputation is limited although they still have some significant factors standing behind them. Their customer base is impressive as it includes the blog's of foursquare, MaxCDN, SoundCloud, buffer, Constant Contact, HTC, Williams-Sonoma, and even TheTechReviewer.com (this website). Secondly, it is important to note that Automattic (the company behind the WordPress platform) were responsible for a large portion of the money raised to fund WP Engine's creation. Taking these two factors into consideration, I would say WP Engine has built a solid reputation in the short amount of time they have been in existence.
HostGator has been in existence for what seems like forever since they started way back in 2002 meaning they have been in business for a total of 11 years. Over this long-span of time, HostGator has gained a solid reputation hosting millions of websites each year and most website owners already use their service or will have positive things to say about them. Such as in my case, we launched TheTechReviewer.com starting on the HostGator platform and then switched to a KnownHost VPS and ultimately ended up switching to WP Engine, where we stand today. We discuss the main reasons for the switch in the next section, but if you're looking for more information then read our WP Engine review. In the end, do I have anything bad to say about HostGator even though we made the switch? No, not at all. In fact, I suggest most website owners choose HostGator as their first web host since my experience was always positive and I have nothing bad to say about them throughout my extensive experience using their service.
HostGator has been in the game far too long and has earned such a large loyal customer base that newcomer WP Engine cannot win in this category.
Features & Pricing
WP Engine hosting plans include a great deal of competitive and advanced features for the price. Examples of this would be things like daily backups, built-in caching functionality, firewalls and malware scanning, and a staging area for making changes and testing new plugins/themes. The pricing structure is as seen in the screenshot below, but is based off your website's visits per month in comparison to the amount of monthly bandwidth used. Hosting your website with WP Engine is a costly expense when compared to many other providers, but when you take into consideration their WordPress specialty and advanced features, it makes sense they charge such a premium price.
HostGator's structure is in a more traditional sense with pricing based on the amount of features instead of limiting the amount of traffic you get. While each HostGator plan boasts unlimited bandwidth, it isn't all that true. The reason for this is that their shared hosting plans are in-fact shared with other websites. So if your website is getting a ton of traffic and hogging all the resources then HostGator will ask you to upgrade to one of their VPS plans which is priced similarly to WP Engine's offerings. The features offered with their plans are rather basic and far less impressive when compared to those offered with WP Engine.
Winner: Tie – WP Engine (Features) & HostGator (Pricing)
WP Engine blows away HostGator in terms of features, but HostGator is the more affordable option so this is a tie as both provider's pricing is comparable in terms of the amount of features required.
WP Engine runs on a highly scalable hosting architecture that utilize servers with maxed out RAM and SSD drives. On top of their architecture, they use their own caching system called EverCache technology which delivers WordPress fast and at scale. They do not allow any plugins which can degrade performance and slow down your website, but most of these products are not necessary when you can take advantage WP Engine's built-in features. Additionally, WP Engine offers a managed content delivery network that is a “set it and forget it” style meaning you never have to tinker with the settings once it is enabled on your account.
HostGator's shared hosting plans are limited to basic server infrastructures and you don't get any caching or CDN support directly from the host. In addition, you are splitting your server resources with dozens of other website which can degrade the performance of your own website in some cases. You can improve your HostGator performance with caching plugins like W3 Total Cache or signing up for MaxCDN, but you'll need to configure these on your own which can get very complicated.
Winner: WP Engine
When comparing two full-featured websites side by side between the two hosts without the use of external performance plugins, WP Engine's hosting service will outperform a HostGator shared plan with ease. Keep in mind, this doesn't mean it will outperform in all cases as some advanced users may be capable of setting up a shared HostGator account configured with 3rd party performance plugins to achieve results comparable to to those of WP Engine.
In the end, this matchup ended with a tie as each hosting platform won the same amount of criteria. The HostGator vs. WP Engine matchup is a tough one since they are realistically on different pedestals. HostGator is the optimal choice for website owners who are just starting out or who are looking for the best deal on quality web hosting. However, WP Engine is the ideal choice for anyone looking to take their website to the next level and make sure their hosting provider focuses on speed, scalability, and security. Coming from someone who has previously been a customer of both WP Engine and HostGator, you really can't go wrong with either choice.