Update: the WP Engine PHP 7 results are in!
Download the updated report and read the results below!
When it comes to hosting your WordPress website, you want it to be fast-loading. And when it comes to hosting in general, we all know you get what you pay for. Right? Right.
Still, there must be some WordPress hosts who are faster than the rest – for the same cost – or better yet: even less expensive… Right? Right.
Here, we’ll look specifically at a handpicked selection of popular managed WordPress hosting providers. You’ll find out whether Flywheel, WP Engine, Media Temple, Pressable, StudioPress Sites or even Bluehost is capable of delivering the fastest WordPress hosting on the planet. And who knows? (soon you will) Maybe it is even possible to get Ferrari-fast (or even the fastest) WordPress hosting – on a budget? Read on friend!
This post is the significantly expanded 2017 update of a popular WordPress hosting speed comparison I did, almost three years ago. That legacy presents us with a unique opportunity, to compare those original results, with these fresh 2017 test results!
Has performance changed, since I did the first version of this speed-comparison? Do the winners and losers still rank like they did back then? Or has everything changed dramatically in the meantime?
Did Media Temple step up their game? Did WP Engine lessen their industry-leading high standards? Did Rainmaker Digital (formerly Copyblogger) launch a discount-version of Synthesis with StudioPress Sites? Does Flywheel perform better or worse now, compared to 3 years ago?
As the old saying goes: the proof is in the pudding! So let’s go:)
Expanded test with two additional hosts
Creating this post took a fair amount of work (research, testing and writing). You can help me greatly by sharing it with your network so more people can benefit from it! Thank you so much my friend ♥
Flywheel is perfect for freelance web designers and agencies. Flywheel take managed WordPress hosting to a whole new level: with Flywheel you can easily create a free development site and transfer billing to your client when the site is ready to go live. Flywheel has one of the hosting industry’s most well-designed control panels: it’s beautiful, simple and functional:
I like Flywheel a lot. They’re fresh! Fresh like a strawberry popsicle on a hot summer day.
WP Engine is a pioneer within managed WordPress hosting. As a result, they deliver some of the best managed WordPress hosting available. Their security-features are top-tier, support is top-notch, and the performance: really good. How good? Well, that’s what this test will provide a concrete answer to:)
I’ve previously reviewed WP Engine here.
I’ve also reviewed Media Temple’managed WordPress hosting here. Read that one for my low-down on Media Temple’s managed WordPress hosting service. I do generally recommend their Grid (see below) over their managed WordPress hosting. The latter is faster than the Grid, but my overall experience has been best on the Grid, on which I’ve hosted websites for around 10 years now.
Even though Media Temple’s Grid is shared hosting – unlike Media Temple’s managed WordPress hosting – I’ve included the Grid in this comparison, to see how it performs relative to Media Temple’s slightly pricier managed WordPress hosting option.
I also wanted to see how Media Temple’s cost-friendly Grid fares, compared to more expensive hosting competitors like Flywheel, WP Engine, and StudioPress Sites. The Grid includes 100 sites for $20 a month – quite an amazing deal!
In this new, updated version of the test, I’ve replaced Synthesis hosting with StudioPress Sites (recently reviewed here) – Rainmaker Digital’s fresh new managed WordPress hosting servicec – which I suspect may potentially replace Synthesis entirely at some point. But who knows? ☺︎
Maybe this badass fella?
Synthesis did extremely well in the original speed-comparison (albeit at a slightly higher price point than its competitors WP Engine, Flywheel and Media Temple) so I’ve been excited to find out how StudioPress Sites perform compared to Synthesis. Did Rainmaker Digital compromise on the quality and blistering speed of Synthesis? The answer to that is about to be revealed;) Will Brian Clark remain undefeated?
Pressable is a newcomer in this test. I’ve been wanting to test Pressable for a long time. Their pricing is enticing, to say the least! Far below most competing managed WordPress hosting services like WP Engine, Flywheel, Media Temple and StudioPress Sites. That said, Pressable still isn’t “dirt cheap” a la discount hosting services like GoDaddy, Site5, and Bluehost.
Yet, the question remains: how well does Pressable perform?
“Wait a minute… Did he just say… Bluehost?”
Indeed my friend; I did say Bluehost.
To throw a joker – or underdog if you will – into the mix, I included Bluehost, even though I’ve always perceived Bluehost to be a discount host with all the connotations that follow. I’m always open to be pleasantly surprised, so here’s a “cheers and good luck” from me to Bluehost. May the best host win this epic Gladiator-battle of giants!
Anyway, to give Bluehost the best odds at competing fairly against industry heavyweights like WP Engine, Flywheel, and Media Temple: I picked Bluehost’s Pro plan, boasting a “high performance server” at “only $13.95 per month – normally $23.99” (paid annually).
My thinking was something along the lines of “paying a little extra at Bluehost may be the key that unlocks the kingdom to brutally fast WordPress hosting – still at a low cost. Like tipping the waiter at your local restaurant a little extra – and receiving superior service in return.
On the other hand, a discount host is a discount host, no matter what. Ordering the most expensive meal at a cheap restaurant usually won’t mean that a great culinary experience is in the cards. You still just ordered “the most exquisite discount food available”. Same could turn out true, with Bluehost Pro. A bit less bad… but still bad.
But that’s all just my brain churning. Which scenario will play out in the real world? Can Bluehost Pro excite and delight our website-owner tastebuds?
Why the above line-up?
Here’s why I settled on the above line-up:
- it’s a good selection – there’s something for everyone:)
- they’re some of the most popular hosts, so testing them will help as many readers as possible.
- for practical reasons, I had to focus the test’s scope to a manageable handful of hosts.
- these are the ones that I myself would be most interested in, if I was looking for managed WordPress hosting for my own online business needs.
“Why didn’t ya test hosts XYZ too?”
I have a major dislike for ugly, hideous hosting websites. My audience is mostly “normal” business owners, with a good sense of visual aesthetics and a refined taste for good design. They’re not sysadmins. That’s why I favor designer-friendly hosts like Flywheel, Media Temple and WP Engine. I simply won’t test some obscure new host who may be gone tomorrow – or has a messy website that may reflect the attention and care they’ve put into their hosting control panel (i.e. it’ll likely be a horrible user experience).
“Why did ya include Bluehost then? They’re ugly as hell, son!”
I know. And I agree! That’s why I wrote above that I included Bluehost as a joker/underdog in this test. I got curious, seeing several high-profile bloggers recommend Bluehost. I remember thinking “WTF? Why’d they recommend that crap?” (maybe Bluehost converts well, affiliate-wise…)
Shortly after, I heard the great Mr. Frank Kern mention Bluehost and say he prefer WP Engine – I thought: “I wanna pit Bluehost against the big boys – I wanna see whether WP Engine is worth – or Bluehost rocks!”
Who’s to trust? My bet is on real data. So I included Bluehost, too:)
The test page setup
I didn’t have access to the old test page used for the original hosting speed comparison so I couldn’t reuse it – had to create a new one. So please note: the new results are not directly comparable with the old ones. I’ll get back to that in a moment and explain how you can contrast the old vs new test results, for even deeper insights.
Here’s a screenshot of the test page I created:
I wanted the page to utilize around 100 database queries – a fairly common amount, especially for WordPress sites running WooCommerce, WPML or other database-intense plugins.
To get the page up towards those 100 db queries, I installed the following WordPress plugins:
- Genesis Connect for WooCommerce
- Jetpack by WordPress.com
- P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler)
- Query Monitor
- WP Example Content
I activated all of Jetpack’s many modules, except for Automattic’s Photon image hosting CDN (content distribution network) as it would obviously interfere with the test results by serving the images from Automattic’s servers, rather than the tested host’s servers.
I then placed various widgets in the theme’s various widget areas. I particularly used Genesis’ Featured Posts widget to do some custom post queries for added db queries:)
As a theme I chose Altitude Pro from StudioPress. It’s a great theme – and its multi-section front page layout allowed me to “strain” the servers with a few more http-requests to load a handful background images too.
Each test ran for 16 days.
For your convenience, I’ve also included the most important test results from the original 2014 comparison in the spreadsheet. This is to help you get an idea of each host’s consistency, throughout the years.
New vs old Response Time results
As noted above: you can not directly compare a specific host’s 2017 vs 2014 numbers. The tested pages differ vastly. The 2014 test page loaded 100 blog posts, to “put some pressure” on each host. That’s why the response times were much higher across the board, back then.
What you can do however, is look at the relative ranking of each host, within that year.
Uptime & Downtime: New vs Old
Please take the reported uptime, downtime and outages with a grain of salt. A 16-day test is insufficient to properly validate a host’s uptime and downtime. Any host can experience downtime. That doesn’t mean they ever should be down, though.
All hosts should strive for 100% uptime. So, despite the time frame, it’s still a highly relevant observation.
Hosting is a utility. Like your kitchen blender, you want it to work, every morning, when you’re preparing that bio-organic blueberry smoothie. You don’t wanna be all like “Will it blend? Yesterday it wouldn’t…”
In the world of hosting, downtime is uncool. Your host can’t just be all hippie-cool about it, moaning “well (passing on the spliff)… well… man… they totally caught us off guard man… someone DDOS’ed us man…”
Hosting is a mission critical piece of your website online business. Just as Navy SEAL snipers are expected to hit their target every time (one shot – one kill) you want your smoothie every morning – and your website to be up. Hooyah? Hooyah!
Pingdom offers two metrics to measure website speed: Response Time and a Page Speed / Load Time metric. The latter being the most reliable measure of how fast your website is, for your visitors. That said, Response Time holds value too.
Pingdom – Response Time
If we look at Response Time, WP Engine claimed the #1 spot, with a Response Time average of 233 ms. StudioPress Sites came in second, with a Response Time average of 332 ms. Hot on the heels of StudioPress Sites were Flywheel, with a solid 389 ms average.
Pingdom – Page Speed
StudioPress Sites = incredibly fast WordPress hosting. They veritably dominate the Page Speed test, with a Load Time of just 356 ms. Media Temple’s competitively priced WordPress hosting conquered the #2 spot, with a Load Time of 692 ms. Still, it’s almost double the Load Time of StudioPress Sites. Anyway, breathing heavily down Media Temple’s neck, is WP Engine with a Load Time of 728 ms.
However, the PHP 5.6 test was set up just before WP Engine sent me an email, notifying me they’re now offering PHP 7 (replacing PHP 5.6) promising huge performance gains. I wanted to complete the WP Engine test within the same time frame as the other hosts, so I let it complete.
A new WP Engine test with PHP 7 will be shared here, in the coming week. the WP Engine PHP 7 results are in! Get them now!
Response Time vs Page Speed
Many factors can play a role and I won’t go into them all here. Rather, I’ll let a third test bring us closer to finding (you) the fastest WordPress hosting:
P3 Profiler results
An oldie but goodie, P3 Profiler is a free WordPress plugin for testing your site and server performance. I’ve put it to use by running it 5 times on each host, and calculating the average Total Load Time – a metric that measures exactly that – including the load speed of the WordPress admin – making it an enlightening supplement to our Pingdom measurements. Since the WordPress admin can’t be cached, this test gives us a solid idea of the “rubber meets the road” server performance from each host.
The P3 Profiler results are revealing! StudioPress Sites outperformed all competitors (even WP Engine) with its superior score of 0.28926 seconds. Two competitors (somewhat surprisingly, I must say) came close though: Pressable, at 0.38976 seconds and Media Temple’s WordPress hosting at 0.47486 seconds.
The Winner! Fastest WordPress Hosting in 2017
Let’s first ask: who delivered the fastest WordPress hosting in 2014? WP Engine and Synthesis, the latter in this test represented as StudioPress Sites as both are from the same provider: Rainmaker Digital / StudioPress.
That translates as: StudioPress won this shoot-out, back in 2014 – and now again, in 2017.
And even though WP Engine is a lot faster with PHP 7 than PHP 5.6, StudioPress is still fastest across the bloard, also in the P3 Profiler test. That means, we can hereby, by unanimous decision: declare StudioPress Sites the confirmed, un-dis-pu-ted WINNNNER of the 2017 Fastest WordPress Hosting World Heavyweight Championship!
I find that a spine-chilling victory. It leaves no doubt who’s the alpha Gladiator here. It’s like watching Maximus be the only man still standing in the Colosseum, having slain all his opponents, ferociously asking his crowd: “are you not entertained?!”
Venerable victory by StudioPress Sites. I’m deeply humbled.
StudioPress Sites is a pretty badass, high-performance contender in the hosting arena.
But ehm… we haven’t look much at pricing yet, have we?
The fastest WordPress hosting in 2017 – on a budget
Now, you may want to pay what it costs for your website to be the absolute fastest. For you, pricing may not be a factor. You want the fastest WordPress hosting available, for your website.
However, there may also be some of you, who want the fastest WordPress hosting – that you can afford. The fastest hosting – on a budget.
It’s only natural for you to wanna save money. We all do:)
And now, without further ado and beating around the bush:
Pressable impressed me a lot. Not only performance-wise, but in all aspects of the user experience. Their admin UI is clean and everything was smooth sailing. Writing this, $25 monthly will let you host 5 sites. That’s $5 per fast-loading site. A bargain.
One thing you must be aware of though: Pressable doesn’t offer email hosting. So you’ll have to set up your email somewhere else, like G Suite (Google Apps) or wherever you please. But that’s true for all of the tested hosts, except Media Temple and Bluehost who do offer email as part of their hosting plans.
Pressable even comes with a CDN at no extra cost! At Flywheel a CDN costs extra.
“Every paying Pressable customer has their content served using a Content Delivery Network (CDN). We use MaxCDN for delivering content”
– from Pressable’s help section
Taking cost into account – the best speed-value for your money, overall, can be found at Pressable.
Did any host fail miserably?
Bluehost. Look at those numbers… All across the scoreboard, Bluehost lags behind. This is even on the Bluehost Pro plan that I paid extra for, to see Bluehost enter the cage, fit for fight. Bluehost is a dud. It’s utter, completely crap hosting. There, I said it. Bluehost… Pro… Haha. Pro. What a joke. A marketing gimmick at best.
I’ll put it bluntly, like this:
“Pitting Bluehost against WP Engine is like putting Conor McGregor in a boxing ring against Floyd Mayweather. Odds are Bluehost will lose.”
– yours truly, Oliver Nielsen, WebMatros.com 🙂
Media Temple’s Grid did a little better than Bluehost, and the admin UI is miles that of Bluehost whose hideous admin to me resembles the mess left behind by a 4 year old who’s been playing with Lego bricks on the floor.
What about Flywheel?
Dear Flywheel aren’t mentioned much above. Answer is: Flywheel didn’t excel or dominate as such. And they didn’t do poorly either. Still, I’m a huge fan of Flywheel.
There is a smoothness to Flywheel that I can’t quite put my finder on. Their admin UI is the best of all the tested hosting providers here, and using the WordPress admin on a Flywheel hosted website simply feels sublimely smooth. I realize that may sound weird, woo woo or wishy-washy – nevertheless: there’s something to it. So much so in fact, that I’d strongly consider hosting my own stuff on Flywheel if needing another webhost. Why? To get that feelgood Flywheel feelin’ (could almost be the title of a late 1970s pop rock song by Journey, Boston or Asia).
That’s all folks! Feel free to share your hosting experiences and thoughts on these results in the comments below!
Also: please share this blog post with your network! I’ve put a LOT of work (research and testing) into the making of this managed WordPress hosting speed comparison. Please help me share it, so more people can benefit from it! Use the sharing buttons. Thank you! And thanks for reading it too:) You’re the reason I do this stuff.