This year I decided it was time to move my blog and a few other blogs that we operate to a managed WordPress hosting solution. Managed means that the hosting provider handles everything from installation to security and updates. I currently have two different sysadmins managing my sites and WordPress is where they end up spending a bulk of their time. Having people do things for your is great, but it also means you have to take some of your time to manage people. Since I am constantly trying to simplify and find great people or companies to do the tactical day-to-day a managed WordPress solution seemed like the perfect fit.
Along with taking saving me time and resources, two solutions were recommended for me based on performance as well. Since Google has already publicly said that they factor site speed into their ranking algorithm this is an increasingly important topic. So I decided to dive in and try WPEngine to start.
WPEngine has a great site and definitely some very happy customers. I decided to give it a shot and signed-up for an account and requested to have my blog moved over to their platform. In order to request this move I had to fill-out a long form revealing many of my usernames and passwords to things like my current hosting account, etc. I told them I was not comfortable putting in my registrar login information and would instead be happy to change the DNS myself once the migration had taken place.
A day went by and suddenly I received an email from a completely different company. This company claimed to be contracted by WPEngine and said that they would be handling the migration from here. I went to this company’s website and didn’t feel quite as comfortable as I had with WPEngine but was willing to go along with it. Next I received an email with an invite to a BasecampHQ thread to discuss the migration. So I created a BasecampHQ account and viewed the message. Now this completely different company was asking me for all the sensitive information that I just gave to WPEngine. This was confusing, if WPEngine isn’t using the data, why the heck did I just give them all of my sensitive login information?
At this point I decided I just didn’t feel too comfortable so I changed all my passwords and decided to call support. This is what I love about all the services I use be it Go Daddy, Afternic, Hostgator, etc. there is always someone I can talk to when there’s a problem. In the case of Go Daddy and Afternic it’s always an expert that knows me personally, this is fantastic. With Hostgator it is rarely someone who knows me and about 70% of the time it is someone who is helpful, which isn’t bad, but it’s not fantastic.
The phone rang and then I hit a voicemail, it indicated that there was no phone support and I would have to use online support. So I went to the website and submitted a support ticket. A couple of days went by and I didn’t hear anything back so I filed another support ticket. A few more days went by still nothing back. So at this point I tried sending an email to their support email address (rather than doing it through their site) and was finally able to reach someone in support. I decided to close my account, this was not the experience I was looking for and while I’m sure it will improve over time, as a customer this process was time-intensive, a bit intrusive, and in the end a major letdown since I couldn’t just have a simple phone conversation with someone to sort this out.
Still, I’m a big fan of the Lean Startup approach and the idea of build, measure, learn. From what I can see WPEngine seems like a very cool group of people that is really looking to disrupt the space and do something big. I hope they see what I am writing only as a positive for them to know where they could improve. If there was a seamless migration process and just basic phone support I would still be a customer. I am confident that in time these guys will nail it and when they do I want to see it in action!
The second option I was looking at is ZippyKid which happens to be the same service that my friend Michael from DomainSherpa uses for his blog. ZippyKid is also a managed WordPress hosting solution and also prided itself on performance just like WPEngine.
The first thing I did when I went to the ZippyKid site was to call them on the phone. About ten seconds later I was talking to the founder of the company, very cool! I was able to pick his brain and learn more about what they had to offer. After spending some time on the phone with Vid I decided to sign-up for an account. I put in a migration request and Kai was quick to respond and get things started. The entire time I was dealing with one person and he made the process simple and incredibly efficient. I didn’t have to login to a million different systems and before I knew it my blog had been migrated.
Once my site had switched over to the ZippyKid servers the first thing I noticed was the speed, my blog was the fastest I had ever seen it. I also felt some real peace of mind knowing that there was a company focused on keeping my site secure, updated, etc. Next I decided to add a few more of my blogs over to the platform, setting each up didn’t even involve logging-into anything. All I had to do was send one email to Kai and it was all done for me. I have eight sites on there now and each one took me under 20 seconds to setup since all I had to do was send one email to someone I now know and trust.
So far my experience with ZippyKid has been great and I know that if I have a question, the CEO is just a phone call away.
Please don’t take this post as any insult to WPEngine, like I said I still think WPEngine could become a great service and with a few tweaks it could be a very worthy competitor to ZippyKid. As it stands now I think that ZippyKid has perfected the model and made it incredibly simple and put a major focus on customer service, and that should always be #1 in my book.