UPDATE: Please read the update at the end of this post.
In my last post, I mentioned how we had changed from the Flexsqueeze theme to Genesis in an attempt to solve the issues we have been having with this site. Well, it didn’t work. Within days of changing themes Hostgator shut down the site yet again saying our that our site “was found to be consuming an inordinate amount of mysql connections, to the point of degrading overall system performance”.
I kind of understand where Hostgator are coming from but it certainly doesn’t help when they give no warning. Usually it happens in the middle of the night so the site can be down for some hours before you even realise. And then once it is down, you have no way of getting back into it to try to fix it without first contacting them and getting access.
Included in the email from Hostgator was the suggestion that we move to a dedicated server. That isn’t cheap by any means at a minimum of $174 a month. We’re not even paying that for a year of hosting.
However, we needed to do something different. Hostgator weren’t really forthcoming with what the exact problem was, offering own vague suggestions, and despite removing every single plugin on the site, the memory resources being used didn’t really reduce that much. (Just as a side note to all of this, the plugin that used the most memory on our site was the NextGen plugin which we won’t be putting back on.)
So what did we do? We took the advice of a reader by the name of Tilen Mandelj who left a comment on our last blog post suggesting that we should try either WP Engine or Synthesis for our hosting. I had actually read about Synthesis but had never heard of WP Engine. Both of these hosting companies focus solely on WordPress.
So as I do, I started to research, but thinking that things were now okay with the site I didn’t dwell too long on it all.
However, not long after, the dreaded email from Hostgator arrived saying they had shut down the site. Of course, it came in at night and too late to really do anything. So all I did was email both WP Engine and Synthesis with the exact same email, asking if their hosting could help to solve the problems we were having with this site and then promptly went to bed.
By morning, both companies had responded. This was a good sign. I had already read about how good the service was from each of them. Each had a slightly different response, however Synthesis went a little further to offer suggestions and they also wanted a little more info on what plugins we were using and so forth. Just in those few pre-sale emails, they provided more help than Hostgator ever did.
It took a while for us to decide on which company to go with actually because both looked really good. I was moving more towards Synthesis because they are run by the same guys who created the Genesis theme plus, like I said, their pre-sales emails were quite helpful.
However, in the end we went with WP Engine. We had read a number of glowing reviews for WP Engine and some from those who had actually used both Synthesis and WP Engine and the consensus was that WP Engine was the better at least in their opinion. Plus, if we wanted to start adding more sites to it, the next level up at $99 a month allowed for up to 10 websites whereas with Synthesis, the $99 monthly price only included 2 websites.
So yesterday, we migrated the site over to WP Engine. We followed the migration instructions on their site which are quite good by the way, however it didn’t all go to plan as these things do. So I emailed them and within half an hour I had a response which got me through the next step and then another hitch, so another email was sent and so on. In all about four or five emails later, we had the site up and running.
With the site now functioning again I decided to test the memory usage. I was using a plugin called Debug Bar as recommended by the guy from Synthesis. With Hostgator, the memory usage was at 53mb which is apparently quite high. An average WordPress site should really be no more than 20mb. Despite deactivating every single plugin, the site remained at around 43mb. After migrating the site to WP Engine the memory usage was now at 4mb which is a major drop. However, that’s not to say that WP Engine solved those problems because when we migrated and transferred the database, we didn’t transfer every table in that database. There were tables in there that belonged to plugins that we no longer used. It could well have been those tables that were causing the high memory issue.
So at the moment, we are still testing the waters with WP Engine. If it turns out okay, we will move up to the $99 a month plan and add a few more sites.
UPDATE: As of December 2013, we decided to move this site over to our Hostgator reseller account. We like WP Engine, we really do, but this site was getting too much traffic and the plan we were on wasn’t working for us. We were being charged for excess visits. The next option would have been to upgrade to the $99 plan but really in terms of traffic (which includes bots by the way) we would probably only been able to get another couple of websites into the plan. It just didn’t seem cost effective based on our traffic numbers.