We look at managed WordPress hosting options at WP Engine and A2 Hosting. WordPress is the preferred CMS for turning out content based websites. Therefore, we restrict our comparison between WP Engine and A2 Hosting to the managed WordPress product.
Datacenter – WP Engine vs A2 Hosting
WP Engine, primarily, uses Google Cloud Platform for hosting the WordPress sites. It has plans that are designed to serve the specific number of visits in a calendar month. You have WP Engine plans that are designed to support between 5,000 visitors to 400,000 visitors a month. For sites that are busier than 400,000 visits a month, there are enterprise dedicated options. Enterprise dedicated customers of WP Engine can also choose to host at Amazon’s AWS datacenters.
The WordPress hosting customers are hosted at the GCP or Google Cloud Platform datacenters. You can pick or choose the GCP datacenters on WP Engine from the options given below:
- United States – 3 datacenter locations in US East (Virginia and Ohio) and US West (Oregon).
- Canada – 1 datacenter location in Montreal.
- Europe – 2 datacenters in Europe East and one in West.
- Asia – 2 datacenter locations in Taiwan and Tokyo.
The important thing to note is that WP Engine uses Cloud-based instances or servers to host the WordPress sites.
A2 Hosting uses standard datacenters to host your managed WordPress websites. You could choose from one of the following datacenters while hosting WordPress sites on A2 Hosting:
- Michigan datacenter in the US
- Arizona datacenter in the US
- Amsterdam datacenter in Europe
- Singapore datacenter in Asia
Clearly, WP Engine should be preferred over A2 Hosting on account of cloud-based Google datacenters that are offered across the US, Europe and Asia. Also, you cannot compare a cloud-based server with the normal datacenter servers.
Control Panel – WP Engine vs A2 Hosting
WP Engine has its own proprietary control panel to manage your WordPress site. The user control panel of WP Engine can perform all aspects of managing the WordPress site. A2 Hosting uses CPanel to manage the WordPress website.
Most managed WordPress hosts avoid using CPanel on account of concerns with the bloat that it adds to the overall site performance. Enterprise WordPress sites would be seldom served through CPanel servers. For performance reasons, WordPress websites would do well on servers that have lightweight control panels.
For sites that are starting up, the control panel choice may not make much of an impact. When your site reaches a critical threshold in terms of visitors, all these factors including the control panel have a cascading effect on the site performance. We do suggest using a lightweight control panel for WordPress hosting.
CDN – WP Engine vs A2 Hosting
CDN or Content Delivery Network is an important part of the picture when it comes to improving site performance. CDN allows you to serve static files through geographically dispersed datacenter locations. It leads to much better delivery of static content.
WP Engine makes use of Stackpath (MaxCDN) for WordPress hosting accounts. WP Engine’s integration with Stackpath is simple and you can activate the CDN services through the User control panel. It may be pertinent to mention though that WP Engine is moving away from Stackpath and expects to be totally out of Stackpath by end of 2022. It is already working to provide seamless integration with Cloudflare CDN services.
New accounts on WP Engine go on the Cloudflare CDN. You can configure your site to use the Cloudflare DNS. Cloudflare CDN and cache can help serve static assets of your website. WP Engine has also carved out a ‘Global Edge Security’ product with Cloudflare. It allows your website to use all the following for improved performance and security of your website:
- Cloudflare WAF or Web Application Firewall to manage incoming traffic and security.
- ARGO smart routing to ensure faster delivery of content to endpoints.
- Automatic image optimization and conversion to WebP format.
The Global Edge Security product entails additonal charge. At the basic level, the Cloudflare CDN and DNS should help you provide reliable and robust CDN services for your WordPress site.
A2 Hosting does not have any inbuilt integration with Cloudflare. However, you can work with your DNS settings and activate the Cloudflare CDN services. Once done, you can configure your website to use the Cloudflare CDN services.
For the basic CDN offering, there is not much to choose between WP Engine or A2 Hosting. If your site has roadmap of good predictable growth, you will stand to gain a lot with the ‘Global Edge Security’ product. Or, you could choose to manage your Cloudflare CDN services and other services independently.
Backups – WP Engine vs A2 Hosting
WP Engine and A2 Hosting provide daily backups. The backups are completed during nights. WP Engine performs automatic backups every night. In doing so, it also creates restore points. You can pick a restore point from the User Control panel to restore your website. Besides the automatic backups, you can also choose to take manual backups at any time. Most times, you may require a manual backup when your website has undergone significant code or design changes. WP Engine retains the backup restore points for a period of 60 days.
A2 Hosting allows backups through CPanel. You will need to download the backup file. This backup file can be used to restore your account through the CPanel option. Alternatively, you can login to your account through SSH and take manual backup using the linux commands. Clearly, both backup options through CPanel or through SSH mode are not very user friendly.
WP Engine’s restore point creation and management is friendlier way to take backups and restore sites. For the ease of backups on WP Engine, I would have to given preference to WP Engine over A2 Hosting.
PHP Version – WP Engine vs A2 Hosting
A2 Hosting has upgraded to PHP version 8.1 and works well the latest PHP version. WP Engine still supports PHP 7.4 and PHP 8. It has yet to make a move over to PHP 8.1. Using the latest PHP version is a recommended practice. It improves performance of PHP programs.
Managed Services – WP Engine vs A2 Hosting
WP Engine has made a reputation of proactive service delivery and management of WordPress hosting. Support experience with WP Engine has been, reportedly, exceptional. On a 24×7 basis, you will find WP Engine support availability. Support team is eager to help you and resolve any issues on the hosted sites.
A2 Hosting also offers round the clock services to managed WordPress hosting customers. But, most users are of the unanimous opinion that the WP Engine’s service and support levels are on a much higher level. For proactive managed services, you can count on WP Engine Managed WordPress hosting.
WP Engine must be given preference if you are expecting prompt services and resolution of customer site issues.
Costs – WP Engine vs A2 Hosting
- WP Engine’s entry level WordPress hosting costs $27 a month. A2 Hosting is $23.99 a month for the basic offering.
- WP Engine’s bigger plans of WordPress hosting costs $232 a month. It can support up to 400,000 visits a month. A2 Hosting offers unlimited managed WordPress hosting for $49.
I am not a very big fan of unlimitied storage or unlimited WordPress sites on a plan. Eventually, all sites hosted on the server will have to suffer because of unlimited offering. And, A2 hosting will be putting your sites on a shared server with multiple WordPress websites on it.
If I were to decide about hosting a WordPress site that has a clear roadmap of future, I will choose WP Engine over A2 Hosting because of the following reasons:
- Better service and support at WP Engine.
- Google Cloud Platform for hosting the WordPress sites at WP Engine.
- Easier approach to taking backups of the site on WP Engine. Similarly, restoration through restore point is easier compared to server-based or Cpanel based approach on A2 Hosting.
- Cpanel bloats the server. Lightweight user control panels are the way to go. Again, WP Engine’s user control panel is preferable.
- Easier integration with Cloudflare CDN.
For business websites, WP Engine must be accorded preference.
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Rajesh Dhawan is a technology professional who loves to blog about smart wearables, Cloud computing and Microsoft technologies. He loves to break complex problems into manageable chunks of meaningful information.