Choosing WPEngine or Flywheel?
Choosing a web hosting provider is a major decision for everyone from hobbyists who are just planning their first site to entrepreneurs who no longer remember the first site they launched. Those who make the wrong choice find it much more difficult to rank high in search engines and deliver satisfactory user experience than those who select a reliable web hosting provider capable of meeting all their needs at a price they can afford.
But with so many web hosting providers competing with one another and offering feature-packed web hosting plans, how do you know which one is the best? The answer is simple: by narrowing the list of selected candidates for your web hosting provider until you end up with just two options.
Because you’re reading this WPEngine vs Flywheel comparison, we’re willing to bet that you’ve been looking for the best managed WordPress hosting provider out there and can’t decide whether you should go with WPEngine or Flywheel. We can tell you right now that both of them are solid choices designed with the needs of WordPress users in mind, offering excellent scalability, performance, and countless WordPress-specific features that greatly simplify common administrative tasks.
However, they’re certainly not identical, and we’ve written this WPEngine vs Flywheel comparison to highlight all key differences between them so that you can easily decide which of these two popular managed WordPress hosting providers deserves your money more. If you can’t wait to find out what the conclusion is, feel free to skip to the end of this article, where we summarize the pros and cons of WPEngine and Flywheel.
WP Engine: The WordPress Digital Experience Platform
WPEngine was founded on March 1, 2010, and it’s widely considered to be one of the early pioneers of managed WordPress hosting. From the very beginning, the company has been focusing exclusively on WordPress, and this strategy has clearly served it well because its platform is currently home to over 500,00 digital experiences.
“We designed our platform around four pillars—agility, performance, intelligence, and integrations—so you can enjoy simple site setups, easy workflows, stressless launches, and effortless maintenance,” states WPEngine on its website.
Judging by the number of awards WPEngine has received as a company over the years, this popular managed WordPress hosting is also a great place to work. WPEngine employs a diverse and inclusive set of people who are empowered to make value-based decisions so that WPEngine’s customers have all the building blocks they need to create and maintain winning digital experiences.
Flywheel: Managed WordPress Hosting for Freelancers, Agencies & Designers
Flywheel started in 2012 as a managed WordPress hosting built for anyone creating beautiful sites. It was co-founded by Dusty Davidson, Tony Noecker, and Rick Knudtson, who came from web development backgrounds and were well-aware of what web hosting companies that were around at the time were lacking.
“Flywheel is the company we wish existed when we were in your shoes,” says Rick Knudtson. With a small team of five, the first version of Flywheel launched to the public in 2013. Two years later, Flywheel had already grown to 25 employees and received a lot of recognition for delivering a streamlined and managed WordPress hosting service with a lot of features engineered specifically for designers and web design-focused agencies.
Today, Flywheel has over 150 employees, and the company has secured a spot on the Inc. 500 annual list of fastest-growing privately held small companies in the United States. Clearly, Flywheel is doing a lot of things right, which explains why WPEngine has recently announced its decision to acquire the web hosting company.
Flywheel Is Now Owned by WPEngine
That’s right! Flywheel is now owned by WPEngine. Fortunately for Flywheel’s long-term customers, the web hosting provider will continue operating independently, at least for the time being.
“There will be no immediate changes to the Flywheel platform, plans, brand, or experience!” stated Flywheel in its press release. “It’ll be business as usual over here, and we’re excited to spend the coming weeks and months collaborating with our new coworkers from WPEngine.”
Heather Brunner, Chairwoman and CEO of WPEngine echoed the same message in the press release WPEngine released on its website, “I personally welcome each employee and customer into the WPEngine family and I’m excited about the opportunities we will create in the years to come.”
Thanks to the acquisition, WPEngine now powers more than 120,000 brands and agencies in 150 countries and employs nearly 900 employees across seven offices globally to serve them. Even though financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed, experts estimate that the two web hosting companies—now playing for the same team—are likely to pass the $1 billion mark for valuation by 2020.
WPEngine & Flywheel Platform Features
Let’s start with the obvious. Both WPEngine and Flywheel are managed WordPress hosting services built from the ground up to provide the fastest, most reliable, and most secure WordPress experience. It’s beyond the scope of this WPEngine vs Flywheel comparison to name and describe every single feature the two managed WordPress hosting services offer, so let’s focus on those that matter the most.
WordPress Website Migration
If you have an existing WordPress site hosted by someone other than WPEngine or Flywheel, you will be pleased to know that the two managed WordPress hosting services make it very easy to switch hosts.
WPEngine’s solution to website migration is the Migration Plugin Tool, whose purpose is to help WPEngine customers migrate their sites to WPEngine from any other host. Minimal technical knowledge is required to use the plugin since all you need to do is provide the plugin your WP Engine SFTP credentials and let it do all the heavy lifting. The plugin is compatible with all recent versions of WordPress, and you can use it for free without any limitations.
Flywheel also has a WordPress migration plugin, called Migrate Guru, to simplify difficult WordPress migrations. The plugin is powered by BlogVault, and it automatically takes care of many challenging aspects of migrating a WordPress site by automatically rewriting URLs, bypassing import-export scripts, and handling serialized data.
In addition to the WordPress migration plugin, Flywheel also offers stress-free migrations handled by a seasoned team of WordPress professionals. To have a Flywheel migration team member move your WordPress site, you simply complete Flywheel’s secure migration form and give the person assigned to you some time to copy your existing website on a Flywheel server for you to review.
One important benefit of WordPress-specific hosting is the ability to set up a 1-click staging site directly from the admin control panel. If you’re not familiar with staging, all you need to know is that a staging site is essentially a clone of the production site. A staging site is used for testing and development purposes, helping developers and administrators catch any bugs and problems after upgrading to the latest version of WordPress, implementing a new feature, or switching to a different theme.
Both WPEngine and Flywheel make it very easy for their customers to create a staging environment. With WPEngine, you need to go to your WordPress Dashboard, click on the WP Engine logo on the sidebar located at the top left corner, select the “Staging” tab, and click “Copy site from LIVE to STAGING.” To set up a Flywheel staging environment, you first need to activate staging in the Advanced tab of the admin dashboard and then enter your admin password to complete the process.
WPEngine and Flywheel also let you easily create a complete copy of any existing WordPress site, which may come in handy in many different situations. Let’s say you’re a freelance web designer, and one of your clients wants you to develop a website that’s very similar to the website of one of your previous clients. Instead, of building everything from scratch, you can simply clone the website you’ve already built and customize it to fit the needs of the new client.
Regardless of whether you choose WPEngine or Flywheel, you won’t see the familiar cPanel admin control panel, which provides a graphical interface and automation tools to simplify common hosting tasks. Instead, both WPEngine and Flywheel feature a custom admin control panel, providing convenient access to WordPress- and hosting-specific features alike.
Neither admin control panel strikes us as significantly better than the other since they both accomplish what they’re designed to do and have clearly been designed by experienced professionals who understand how to make a user interface accessible to everyone.
If you’ve spent the last couple of years administering websites using cPanel, it might take you some time to get used to the custom admin control panels used by WPEngine and Flywheel, but you shouldn’t see it as some insurmountable obstacle. If anything, you will be rewarded with more time to spend on things that actually matter.
These days, hardly anyone is building WordPress sites from scratch. Most web developers and designers use ready-made WordPress themes that allow them to start with a rough outline of what they would like the site they’re working on to look like.
WPEngine gives its customers access to a whole host of professional themes from StudioPress, all of which are search-engine-optimized with locked down security features. The available themes cover everything from business to e-commerce to lifestyle to photography to real estate and more.
For example, the AgentPress Pro theme is aimed at industry-savvy real estate agents who would like to build a better business with a modern WordPress site featuring intuitive design, powerful functionality, and smart listings. The theme can be easily customized, and you can preview all changes in real time. The AgentPress Pro theme works just as well on mobile devices as it does on desktop computers, and its HTML5 markup ensures that the theme won’t become obsolete anytime soon.
Flywheel, unfortunately, doesn’t give its customers access to professionally designed WordPress themes, but it does help web developers and designers build WordPress sites faster with Blueprints, which are essentially neat packages that bundle themes, plugins, and customizations together, making it possible to whip out a brand-new WordPress site in a matter of seconds.
WPEngine and Flywheel see themselves as specialist WordPress providers that focus on niche customers. As such, they believe that providing email hosting would make it more difficult for them to maintain focus on building great WordPress hosting environments and be best at it.
If you find the idea of paying for web hosting without having your business email taken care of hard to swallow, you’re certainly not the only one. Email hosting has become such an integral part of most shared hosting services that many people don’t even realize that email hosting is actually just a nice bonus that not everyone needs.
In this WPEngine vs Flywheel comparison, we’ve already mentioned that the two managed WordPress hosting providers focus mainly on freelancers, agencies, and high-traffic sites. In other words, they focus on customers who most likely already have a reliable email hosted by some other company.
The few WPEngine and Flywheel customers who don’t already have an email provider are encouraged to choose G Suite, Zoho Mail, or Rackspace Email, which are email hosting services offering paid email accounts for businesses and professionals using their own domain names.
Extra Features & Add-Ons
If you have a large website that receives visitors from around the world, you might want to deliver them content based on their geographic location. For example, online retailers often show location-specific deals, a tactic that has been proven to increase conversion rates.
With WPEngine’s Geotarget add-on, you can deliver more relevant digital experiences and improve audience engagement by serving custom content based on a site visitor’s location. This premium add-on costs $30 a month, and you can add it to any Startup, Growth, or Scale plan in the checkout process. From there, you simply activate it just like you would any other WordPress add-on and configure it to your liking.
Flywheel has a feature that seemingly does the same thing as WPEngine’s Geotarget add-on but is actually used for something completely different. We’re talking about Local by Flywheel, a popular feature that lets you develop WordPress sites locally with flexible environment options and hassle-free local SSL support.
Recently, WPEngine has entered into a strategic partnership with HubSpot, a developer and marketer of software products for inbound marketing and sales. The partnership will give WPEngine customers access to HubSpot’s free CRM and marketing software natively within WordPress to simplify sales and marketing processes.
“Pairing a powerful CMS with an equally powerful CRM is an essential catalyst for a growing business,” said Brian Halligan, CEO and co-founder of HubSpot. “By leveraging WP Engine and HubSpot together, those site owners can turn their websites into growth engines for their businesses,” he added.
Who is faster, WP Engine or Flyweel?
Just a few hundred milliseconds of delay between the time a visitor enters the URL of your website into the address bar and the time the very last component of your site loads can be the difference between ranking high in major search engines and being virtually invisible to most potential visitors. Naturally, choosing a high-performance web hosting service should be one of your top priorities, and we’re happy to say that both WPEngine and Flywheel are solid choices.
The two managed WordPress hosting services are more or less identical when it comes to uptime, both successfully maintaining an uptime of at least 99.9%. WPEngine even offers a Service Level Agreement (SLA), guaranteeing to keep its servers running 99.95% of the time. If they fail, the company offers 5% of your plan’s fee as credit. Flywheel doesn’t offer an SLA.
For this WPEngine vs Flywheel comparison, we wanted to know which of the two managed WordPress hosting services achieves faster loading times. To obtain accurate results, we set up two identical websites, one hosted by WPEngine and the other one hosted by Flywheel, and measured how fast they load. The site hosted by WPEngine loaded in 2.6 seconds, while the site hosted by Flywheel loaded in nearly 3 seconds. Clearly, WPEngine sites load noticeably faster than sites hosted on Flywheel.
One possible explanation for why the site hosted by WPEngine loaded so much faster than the site hosted by Flywheel has to do with the fact that WPEngine has a larger, more mature infrastructure, with servers in the US, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Flywheel also covers multiple continents, but its global presence isn’t quite as developed as WPEngine’s—at least not yet.
The performance of just about any WordPress site can be significantly improved by serving cached snapshots of pages or resources instead of relying solely on the backend to process each and every request. WPEngine has an automatic caching solution called WPEngine Page Cache, which holds on to the content it stores for 10 minutes before creating a new snapshot. Flywheel’s caching solution is powered by the Varnish cache server, a fast memory-based HTTP accelerator customized with rules specific to WordPress. Both solutions work great, and their performance benefits are far from insignificant.
Who has the Best WordPress Security?
Both WPEngine and Flywheel make it easy for their customers to get free SSL certificates from Let’s Encrypt, a non-profit certificate authority run by Internet Security Research Group that provides X.509 certificates for Transport Layer Security encryption at no charge.
To protect your site from malware attacks, WPEngine and Flywheel rely on a whole host of preventative security measures, including proactive malware monitoring, whose purpose is to identify any sites that may have been compromised by automatically running comprehensive malware scans and looking for known red flags indicating a security breach.
As you might expect from managed WordPress hosting services, WordPress updates happen automatically, so there’s no reason to worry about some hacker exploiting a known vulnerability when you decide to take an extended vacation and leave both your laptop and smartphone at home. You also don’t need to worry about hackers brute-forcing their way into your site because WPEngine and Flywheel support two-factor authentication and have strict password strength requirements.
WPEngine takes security a notch higher compared with Flywheel by disallowing multiple plugins that are known to either clash with its own custom solutions or introduce security holes. Good examples of WordPress plugins that WPEngine disallows for security reasons are WP phpMyAdmin and Uploadify. Of course, this also means that you can’t use any plugin you want, but does it really matter since WPEngine can do everything without third-party plugins?
Comparing Managed WordPress Hosting Plans and Prices
If you compare WPEngine’s and Flywheel’s plans and pricing side-by-side, you notice that the two managed WordPress hosting services share more similarities than differences, which somewhat complicates this WPEngine vs Flywheel comparison. For starters, they both have three plans plus an option to create a custom plan. They both include a money-back guarantee and a substantial discount for those who decide to go with annual prepay. Last but not least, they both seamlessly scale from just a few thousand monthly visits to millions.
WPEngine offers the following three plans:
- Startup: Starts at $35 a month and includes 25,000 monthly visits, 10 GB of storage space, 50 GB of bandwidth, and 1 website.
- Growth: Starts at $115 a month and includes 100,000 monthly visits, 20 GB of storage space, 200 GB of bandwidth, and 5 websites.
- Scale: Starts at $290 a month and includes 400,000 monthly visits, 30 GB of storage space, 400 GB of bandwidth, and 15 websites.
Flywheel offers the following three plans:
- Starter: Starts at $23 a month and includes 25,000 monthly visits, 5 GB of storage space, 50 GB of bandwidth, and 1 website.
- Freelance: Starts at $105 a month and includes 100,000 monthly visits, 20 GB of storage space, 200 GB of bandwidth, and 10 websites.
- Agency: Starts at $266 a month and includes 500,000 monthly visits, 50 GB of storage space, 500 GB of bandwidth, and 30 websites.
As you can see, Flywheel clearly wants to offer a better value than WPEngine. While the difference in price most likely won’t matter too much to larger enterprises and agencies, independent freelancers might see it as a major deciding factor.
WPEngine vs Flywheel Customer Support
WPEngine has received a lot of praise over the years for its award-winning customer support service, which the company offers through 24/7 live chat and over the phone. While the live chat is available to all customers, only those who pay for at least the Growth plan can receive customer support over the phone.
Flywheel offers 24/7 support through live chat and ticket system, but it, unfortunately, doesn’t have any phone number its customers could call when they need help with an urgent problem. It does at least have a fairly comprehensive knowledge base, which covers all sorts of web hosting and WordPress-related topics, but we should say that the same is true for WPEngine since we want to keep this WPEngine vs Flywheel comparison as objective as possible.
WPEngine Pros & Cons
|WPEngine Pros||WPEngine Cons|
|WordPress optimization||Relatively expensive|
|Fantastic performance||You only get Live Chat support on the Growth plan|
|A generous 60-day money back guarantee||Doesn’t offer a migration service|
|Proactive security monitoring||Restrictive when it comes to plugins|
|Helpful customer support|
|Custom control panel|
|Separate staging area|
|Free WordPress themes|
Flywheel Pros & Cons
|Flywheel Pros||Flywheel Cons|
|WordPress optimization||No phone support|
|Satisfactory performance||Slower loading times|
|30-day money-back guarantee||No Service Level Agreement|
|Comprehensive knowledge base||Lack of hardware transparency|
|Support for local development|
Who to Choose: WPEngine or Flywheel?
Contrary to what many people believe, managed WordPress hosting can be not only relatively affordable but also incredibly accessible, and both WPEngine and Flywheel prove this. If your budget is very limited, Flywheel is a great choice because it offers a solid mix of performance and WordPress-specific features at a reasonable price. But if you’re looking for the best managed WordPress hosting service out there, you should go with WPEngine because its performance is rock-solid, and its features are hard to beat. As such, the conclusion of this WPEngine vs Flywheel comparison is simple: WPEngine is a better managed WordPress hosting service.
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