WP Engine vs Pantheon (2020): Premium Web Hosting Comparison

When it comes to premium web hosting services, two companies that rise to the top are WP Engine and Pantheon. Though it focused on Drupal early on, Pantheon has branched out to offer managed WordPress hosting as well, making it a direct competitor to WP Engine. Below we review their best features and compare what they offer to recommend the best high performance web hosting for your needs. 

WP Engine vs Pantheon Web Hosting Comparison Chart

Web HostingWP EnginePantheon
 WP EnginePantheon logo
PriceCheck Hosting PlansCheck Hosting Plans
Free DomainNoNo
Host Multiple DomainsYesYes
Traffic TiersStartup: 25,000/mo
Growth: 100,000/mo
Scale: 400,000/mo
Custom: 1,000,000+/mo
Basic: 25,000/mo
Small: 25,000/mo
Medium: 50,000/mo
Large: 150,000/mo
Extra Large: 300,000/mo
Elite: Up to 20 million
Storage TiersStartup: 10GB
Growth: 20GB
Scale: 50GB
Custom: 100GB – 1TB
Basic: 20GB
Small: 30GB
Medium: 50GB
Large: 100GB
Extra Large: 200GB
Elite: 200GB+
Monthly BandwidthStartup: 50GB
Growth: 200GB
Scale: 500GB
Custom: 400GB+
Basic: 125,000 pages
Small: 125,000 pages
Medium: 250,000 pages
Large: 750,000 pages
Extra Large: 1,500,000 pages
Elite: Unlimited
WebsitesStartup: 1
Growth: 10
Scale: 30
Custom: 30
Basic: 5
Small: 10
Medium: 15
Large: 35
Extra Large: 70
Elite: 270
Hosting InterfaceWP Engine Client PortalWebOps
Unlimited Email AccountsNoNo
Content Delivery NetworkMax CDNFastly
Free Site BackupYesYes
Free Site RestoreYesYes
Backup on DemandYesYes
Premium Themes35+ StudioPress ThemesNo
Site TransferYes (plugin)Yes
Operating SystemLinuxLinux
Money Back Guarantee60 daysNo

Features

Pantheon supports WordPress and Drupal while WP Engine focuses exclusively on WordPress.

CMS Marketshare
WordPress is easily the most popular CMS today, which is why WP Engine chose to focus on it and why Pantheon expanded with it.

The easiest-to-spot difference between WP Engine and Pantheon is the CMS platforms they support. WP Engine solely focuses on hosting sites powered by WordPress. They dedicate their efforts purely to improving the speed, security, and uptime of WP sites. This means they can maximize their server optimizations for a single content management framework.

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Meanwhile, Pantheon began by offering managed Drupal web hosting only, adding WordPress to their expertise later on. Given how prevalent WordPress websites are, it’s no surprise that Pantheon branched out. This does split their focus to two platforms, though their services for Drupal websites are already topnotch. Pantheon’s control panel lets you access all of your Drupal and WordPress websites, so you’ll only need to master one interface. 

Website transfers are free on both web hosts. WP Engine provides a plugin that will automate the process, but it’s a self-serve step. Pantheon can take this off your plate if you wish with fully managed migrations. Both provide staging environments so you can fully test site changes before pushing them to the live site. They also include automated daily backups that are stored for at least one month, and you can backup on demand. 

Since acquiring StudioPress, WP Engine has included free premium themes as well as the Genesis Framework for its customers. It’s a welcome bonus for new site owners and those looking for a design refresh. 

Speed

Pantheon is faster than WP Engine.

 WP Engine vs Pantheon - Speed
Pantheon is easily one of the fastest web hosting companies today.

When it comes to Drupal web hosting, no other host can really beat Pantheon in a foot race. Their fully optimized servers and efficient container-based platform allows for lightning quick page loads, especially compared to DIY solutions implemented by other hosting companies. But even jumping to speed comparisons on WordPress sites, Pantheon manages to keep a solid lead ahead of WP Engine, despite the latter’s sole specialization.

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Independent benchmark tests show Pantheon outstripping WP Engine every time. Using a cloned site for both hosts, Pantheon posts an 0.81 second page load time and 93 ms TTFB (time to first byte) while WP Engine took 2.27 seconds and 539 ms, respectively. On Pingdom, Pantheon takes 359 ms to load a test page that WP Engine needs 1402 ms to complete. Even a load impact test for 500 concurrent visitors show Pantheon’s servers responding in 4-8 ms while WP Engine takes 17-28 ms.

It’s easy to see that Pantheon’s definitely the ticket if you’re after super-fast performance. Quick loading times reduce bounce rates significantly and influence search engine rankings. Still, WP Engine is by no means slow. It’s still fast enough to keep site visitors from hitting the back button and its servers can easily handle traffic without buckling from the stress.

Reliability

Both WP Engine and Pantheon have excellent uptime and security features.

WP Engine vs Pantheon - Reliability
WP Engine provides 99.9% uptime, just like Pantheon (above).

Downtime is practically unavoidable even for the best web hosts, but minimizing it is crucial. WP Engine and Pantheon both do an excellent job of reducing outages to a handful of minutes, and they occur months apart. As such, they’re able to provide 99.9% uptime throughout the year, ensuring your website stays accessible nearly all the time. 

Both hosts utilize CDN services to deliver site traffic via a global network, resulting in faster responses to requests and more requests completed. Their infrastructures also run on Google Cloud Platform, removing single points of failure and reducing the impact of sharing server space with other websites. 

Pantheon provides fully managed HTTPS certificates for free, taking this tedious aspect off your to-do list. WP Engine does provide SSL certificates but you’ll still have to manually add and renew them yourself. 

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Plans and Pricing

WP Engine offers less expensive hosting plans than Pantheon.

WP Engine vs Pantheon - Plans and Pricing
Hosting a website on WP Engine is pricey, but it’s even more so on Pantheon.

As companies offering fully managed web hosting services, both WP Engine and Pantheon aren’t cheap. In fact, they’re among the most expensive hosts you can get today. Still, WP Engine’s hosting plans cost much less than Pantheon’s, especially once you start scaling up for more storage and higher traffic.

Pantheon’s cheapest plan looks more attractive than WP Engine’s, since you can put up 5 websites inside the allocated 20GB storage. It offers the same 25K monthly visits as WP Engine’s Startup plan, which is limited to a single website and 10GB storage. However, the cost increases become more pronounced as you compare their next tiers. Note, however, that WP Engine charges overage fees for all non-Custom plans once you go over usage limits, while Pantheon only applies it to their Basic plan. 

WP Engine’s mid-tier Growth plan includes 10 sites, 20GB storage, and allowance for 100,000 visits or 200GB bandwidth per month. Pantheon’s Performance plans are split into four tiers, from Small to Extra Large. The Small plan matches WP Engine’s Growth plan, but costs almost twice more once the promo price ends. The same cost ratio can be found when comparing WP Engine’s Scale plan with Pantheon’s Large plan. 

In short, Pantheon’s non-Basic plans are all targeted heavily at larger businesses that can afford their daunting prices. Pantheon themselves recommend that their web hosting plans are for enterprises and organizations who handle client websites. Meanwhile, WP Engine lets you have a taste of a fully managed WordPress hosting experience with their 60-day money-back guarantee. Pantheon’s hosting plans, on the other hand, are non-refundable and they’re prepaid annually. 

Verdict

WP Engine is more cost-efficient than Pantheon.

Despite Pantheon’s speed advantage, it’s clear that WP Engine offers more value with its less expensive pricing. And we say ‘less expensive’ here and not ‘more affordable’ or ‘cheaper’ because there are many more web hosting companies that charge a fraction of what these two do. However, if you’re after a fully managed solution that takes care of all the server-side and platform optimizations and maintenance, WP Engine wins out since it costs less, it’s just as reliable, and their team’s expertise is solidly established. More importantly, businesses can try out their web hosting services to see if they’re a good fit and whether they deliver. 

Pantheon requires you to commit to a hosting plan from the get-go. They offer free sites so you can test their services, only billing you once it goes live, but you won’t be able to refund if you somehow feel unsatisfied with what you get. That’s a pretty tall order, considering the server quality that Pantheon delivers. You’re protected for overage charges the first time you incur them, but you’ll be moved to the next Performance plan if your monthly traffic exceeds your current plan’s limits. We don’t recommend Pantheon for anyone without extensive experience in managing websites, but it can be exactly what growing businesses and sizable enterprises need.

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