Who wins in the WP Engine vs Rackspace race?

Written by Rachael B. - July 15, 2015

WP Engine has made a big mark on the WordPress hosting world in the past few years. A relative newcomer, they were founded just five years ago in 2010. Since then, they have been at the forefront of demonstrating the benefits of a dedicated WordPress platform as opposed to a generic host.

One of the key benefits they promote is fast load times and we have seen great performance on many of our clients’ websites. However, we didn’t have any solid data to demonstrate how fast it actually is. Until now.

We migrated a few sites from Rackspace to WP Engine and tested them before and after so that we had a direct comparison. What was especially interesting about this, was that the team at WP Engine historically come from a Rackspace background and they actually use Rackspace servers as part of their mix. This makes it a great test of whether the performance layer that they have developed has actually allowed them to outperform Rackspace itself.

For transparency, the websites were hosted on a dedicated server at Rackspace and effectively ‘downgraded’ to the WP Engine Business plan, which is significantly cheaper but promises great speed, security, a dedicated staging area, automatic core updates, a decent control panel and WordPress specific support. It’s worth mentioning here that we don’t earn any money from either of these hosts and always give our clients the best advice we can from our experience with a wide range of WordPress hosts.

So, how did they do?

We were migrating three sites and ran a GT Metrix speed test of each one prior to migration. We then tested again on the WordPress server. The results are below:

WP Engine vs Rackspace

It is immediately obvious that the WP Engine platform significantly improves Google Page Speed and Yahoo YSlow scores. It is also clear that the total page size of these WordPress sites is reduced by the WP Engine platform. Out of the three websites, Site 2 and Site 3 loaded significantly faster but Site 1 was actually slower, which surprised us considering the reduced page size and improved Google and Yahoo speed scores. We tested Site 1 again and it loaded in 2.9 seconds, which is much closer to Rackspace.

These results show that the WP Engine platform adds a lot of value when it comes to optimising your web pages, which can deliver significant performance gains for some websites. It also shows that speeds can fluctuate to some extent and that some sites will benefit more than others.

Rackspace themselves have a really good track record and many of our clients are very happy with their performance and service. However, these tests show that by adding a WordPress specific performance layer into the mix, you can achieve similar or better performance at a lower cost and have the added benefits of WP Engine being a managed WordPress host, adding value with features like their hosted staging environment, WordPress security and specialist support.

If you want to know more about how WP Engine are different to other hosts then you can jump over to their website to find out more and chat with the WP Engine team.

If you have experience of hosting WordPress with Rackspace or WP Engine (or both!) and would like to share them, or if you have questions about WordPress hosting, please feel free to leave a comment below.