Choosing between Kinsta, WP Engine, and SiteGround can be a tricky choice and at TopOpti we actually have clients on all 3. We have spent a lot of time working with each of these hosts because we discovered that each host has its own distinct benefits and features that lend themselves to different situations. In this article, we’ll talk about all 3 hosts and the pros and cons of each.
If you don’t want to read our full list of pros and cons for each here’s the quick and dirty lowdown.
Our preferred overall host is Kinsta. The built-in CDN, premium DNS, Nginx servers, and built-in developer tools (database search and replace, easy to set up redirects, and performance monitoring to name a few) all make for the fastest and easiest to use hosting of all 3. Whether you’re a professional web developer or putting together your first WordPress site, Kinsta gives a clean easy to use interface and, in our tests, provides the best performance of the 3.
While Kinsta is our favorite overall, the servers don’t always perform the best for E-commerce websites. We’ll dive into the intricacies of this in the “Cons” section of Kinsta hosting but if your building an E-Commerce website our recommendation is WP-Engine.
While WP-Engine and Kinsta are a little easier to use and typically (though not always, read the full review for more information) have better performance than SiteGround they simply don’t touch it when it comes to price. If your site isn’t likely to get much traffic or cost is a major factor for you then we’d highly recommend SiteGround. The hosting is excellent and you still get good performance at a significantly lower price. SiteGround also offers an unlimited number of WordPress installs so if you’re looking to host 5+ sites you will pay significantly less money.
Of the three hosts listed Kinsta is somewhat the new kid on the block. Kinsta was launched in 2013 and has pretty quickly gained a strong following among developers. Kinsta was founded on the idea of providing the very best performance available for WordPress websites. In their own words ” Imagine a car enthusiast building their dream ride. That’s us with WordPress hosting”.
At Topopti we are very performance-centric and when we first started signing clients on with Kinsta it was because we wanted the very fastest hosting that we could find and we were not disappointed. What has really turned us into a huge fan of Kinsta though is the way they’re constantly adding tools to make development easier. From your Kinsta account, you can very quickly and easily run a database search and replace (and reverse it if you screw it up) without ever having to log in to phpMyAdmin or touch any SQL commands. You can enable the built-in CDN with literally a click of a button. You can install an SSL and force all traffic over HTTPS each with the click of a single button. You can add redirects quickly and easily via a simple table without having to worry about installing and updating a plugin that accesses one of the most vulnerable functionalities of your website. Backups are done nightly and are available with a single click. Best of all, they have two separate performance monitoring software options you can turn on to figure out exactly what issues may be slowing down your site to help with troubleshooting.
Overall Kinsta is pretty awesome in terms of both performance and usability but there is one major drawback and it is e-commerce websites. When you look at the pricing plans you’ll notice a row labeled “PHP workers per site” this is how many PHP processes you can have running at one time.
A PHP worker basically performs a task on the server. For instance, when you go to a web page a request is sent to the server, a PHP worker will read PHP code on the server, assemble the finished HTML page, and then send it back to your browser. Other tasks may include receiving form submissions and entering them into the database or firing another function to send the data via email, or processing order information when an order is placed.
Since we first started using Kinsta and as of June 2021, there are only 2 workers available on both the Starter and Pro plans. On most non e-commerce websites this is not a big deal. Most modern sites use caching and CDN’s to limit the amount of work that PHP workers have to do and limit the strain on servers so only having 2 workers isn’t really a big deal. Unless you have an e-commerce website. Many pages on e-commerce sites are not suitable for caching because of constantly updating data, think inventory counts, shopping carts, checkout pages, account pages, etc. Not only do you have more pages that cannot be cached but you have a lot more functionality that needs to be handled on the back end. Checking that products are in stock, writing order information to databases, reducing inventory accounts, handling payment information sending, and WAITING to receive confirmation from payment processors… All of these functions require the use of PHP Workers and while each process may only take a few tenths of a second when you have so many more processes that need to run and multiple users browsing the site and placing orders you’re very likely to run into trouble.
We once moved a client to Kinsta from SiteGround, not a highly trafficked website (4-500 orders per month) but we immediately started running into issues. We noticed users were getting pages timing out on them and the server was generating 5-20 “500 Internal Server Errors” errors per hour. We quickly discovered this was due to the server limitations made the decision to re-enable to SiteGround version of their hosting (It’s not advertised but the rep we spoke to a SiteGround notified us that SiteGround supports up to 12 PHP workers at a time!)
Since then Kinsta has been a no-go for our e-commerce customers. While there are higher plans available, they’ll likely provide way more than you need in terms of all of the other features and you’ll be paying a lot more to escape the PHP Worker bottleneck.
In terms of overall hosting, WP Engine comes in a very close second on our list to Kinsta. The performance of WP Engine is excellent and is close enough to Kinsta that we wouldn’t consider it a deciding factor. The main difference between WP Engine and Kinsta is the additional features that Kinsta offers. WP Engine offers many of the same features including easy redirects, a quick and easy CDN, and SSL certificates but lacks some of the extra benefits of Kinsta including the search and replace feature and the monitoring and troubleshooting tools.
Where WP Engine really shines is in e-commerce hosting. They have e-commerce specific plans that offer elastic search which improves the search functionality of your server while reducing server load and lookup time and while they don’t publicly provide the number of PHP workers per site I was assured by a WP Engine representative that it should never be an issue on any of there sites, something that we’ve been able to back up in our experience in hosting many of our clients’ e-commerce sites with them.
One of the only real drawback that we’ve run into with WP Engine is their customer support. There have been quite a few times that we’ve been speaking with tech support and our call or chat session has been dropped and as they don’t reach back out you’re stuck starting all over again with wait times that can get up to 30 minutes at times. For the most part the support specialists that we’ve talked to have been pretty good but it can be hit and miss. In terms of support, we’d give them a solid 3/5.
Ultimately WP-Engine is our number one choice for e-commerce hosting but even if you don’t have an e-commerce site it’s still an excellent second choice after Kinsta.
We have to admit, we have a bit of a soft spot for SiteGround at TopOpti for SiteGround. As far as basic hosting plans go they crush the competition. Their customer support is excellent, the server performance is well above typical entry-level hosting companies, they have some really nice features including staging sites and automatic backups that WP Engine and Kinsta both provide but is not typical for entry-level hosting plans. Best of all is pricing. You can pay as little as $4.99 for the first term on the Startup plan (though we highly recommend the GrowBig plan at $7.99). This means if you sign up for 3 years, you’ll only pay $4.99 per month for hosting for those first 3 years which is a crazy good deal.
One major advantage that SiteGround has over the other 2 hosts is that you can host an unlimited number of sites on your server. Kinsta and WP Engine are much more restrictive on the number of sites you can host and if you’re looking to host a large number of sites you’re going to pay a substantially higher amount of money.
While SiteGround does offer a few of the same benefits that WP Engine and Siteground do it lacks in others and the performance isn’t quite as good as Kinsta or WP Engine in our tests. Also, once you’ve completed your first term the rates go up quite steeply and you end up paying a pretty similar monthly fee to host with Kinsta or WP Engine.
Overall, SiteGround is a really solid choice, especially if you’re in the early stages of your business or website where every penny counts!
Depending on what you’re looking for we hope that we’ve been able to help you make the best selection for your business between Kinsta, WP Engine, and SiteGround. It’s really not that one is better than the other but that they are different tools that each fit better with different jobs.
If you have any other questions you’d like to ask drop them in the comments below and one of our senior web developers will respond shortly!