WPEngine vs. Synthesis Hosting (Real Site Comparison)

Life is full of making choices including website hosting

I’ve used a good number of hosting services during my years as website publisher.  I’ve been fortunate to require better and better hosting over the years, starting with Bluehost, moving to a VPS, then to Synthesis and I’ve finally migrated every site of mine to WPEngine.

This hosting article compares WPEngine and Synthesis in detail including page load speed comparisons of both hosting services comparing 2 of my sites (multiple pages to get a nice snapshot of performance across several types of content).

Like many people, I started with the cheapest services, namely Bluehost (which I still recommend for hosting when starting out and for lower traffic sites).  As my traffic increased along with revenue, I’ve increased my hosting budget.

Both WPEngine and Synthesis are not the cheapest options.  In fact, they’re higher end WordPress website hosting.  Both are excellent.  Both have advantages.  This comparison covers advantages and disadvantages of both.

This comparison review of WPEngine and Synthesis will be organized by hosting features and performance.

About

Both Synthesis and WPEngine are WordPress website hosting services.  As far as I know, they only host WordPress websites.

I don’t know much about WPEngine’s background, but I know Synthesis is owned by the company that owns StudioPress WordPress themes (a theme company I’ve used for years and still use – this site is built with a StudioPress theme).

My History with Both Hosting Services

  • June 2014:  Signed up with Synthesis for the first time.  Migrated 2 of my larger sites to their hosting platform.
  • May 2015:  Signed up with WPEngine (1 site plan).  Migrated 1 site from Synthesis to WPEngine.
  • November 2015:  Migrated all sites from Synthesis, Bluehost and GoDaddy hosting to WPengine (upgraded my WPEngine plan to a Premium plan which is 1 million plus monthly page views and up to 150 installs.

A. Page Load Speed Comparison

Testing and Comparison Methodology:

My method of comparing page load speed is as follows.

Before migrating my first site from Synthesis to WPEngine (site A), I tested page load speed for the site while hosted with Synthesis.  After migrating to WPEngine, I tested page load speed for the same URL.

I then did the same for another site I migrated from Synthesis to WPEngine (site B).

In all, I test 3 URLs with 2 online page load speed testing services (one URL from site A and two URLs from site B).  Each URL tested is a different type of page.  They are as follows:

  • Site A:  Homepage
  • Site B, URL #1:  Long post (with plenty of images)
  • Site B, URL #2: Category Archive Page

I used both GTMetrix and Pingdom to test page load speed.

Page Load Speed Results:

WPEngine vs Synthesis Page Load Speed Comparison Chart

Winner: Synthesis

Screenshots of the page load speed tests performed:

Synthesis:

Site A on Pingdom.com (Synthesis):

Site A on Pingdom.com (Synthesis):

Site A on GTMetrix (Synthesis):

Site A on GTMetrix (Synthesis):

Site B, URL #1 Tested on Pingdom (on Synthesis):

Site B, URL#1 Tested on Pingdom (on Synthesis):

Site B, URL #1 Tested on GTMetrix (on Synthesis):

Site B, URL #1 Tested on GTMetrix (on Synthesis):

Site B, URL #2 Tested on Pingdom (on Synthesis):

Site B, URL #2 Tested on Pingdom (on Synthesis):

Site B URL #2 Tested on GTMetrix (on Synthesis):

Site B URL #2 Tested on GTMetrix (on Synthesis):

WPEngine:

Site A on Pingdom.com (WPEngine):

Site A on Pingdom.com (WPEngine):

Site A on GTMetrix (WPEngine):

Site A on GTMetrix (WPEngine):

Site B URL #1 Tested on Pingdom (WPEngine):

Site B URL #1 Tested on Pingdom (WPEngine):

Site B URL #1 Tested on GTMetrix (WPEngine):

Site B URL #1 Tested on GTMetrix (WPEngine):

Site B URL #2 Tested on Pingdom (WPEngine):

Site B URL #2 Tested on Pingdom (WPEngine):

Site B URL #2 Tested on GTMetrix (WPEngine):

Site B URL #2 Tested on GTMetrix (WPEngine):

B.  Migration

Synthesis:

Synthesis does not offer website migration.  You either do it yourself or hire a service to do it.  I used Fantasktic to migrate sites from Bluehost to Synthesis.  It costs $99 per site.  I believe Fantasktic offers multi-site discounts.

WPEngine:

WPEngine has a free migration plugin that pretty much automates migrating your site from current hosting to WPEngine.

I’m not terribly technical (I still have trouble with FTP), yet I was able to migrate 15 websites without a glitch.  The plugin worked perfectly.  I did rely on technical support for much of it, but overall it went quickly and smoothly.

Using the WPEngine migration plugin saved me $1,500 in migration fees if I had to hire Fantasktic to migrate the sites.

Winner: WPEngine by a landslide.  The fact they have a free plugin that makes site migration easy makes WPEngine the winner when it comes to comparing migration between Synthesis and WPEngine.

C.  WordPress Installation and Set Up

Synthesis:  When I needed a new WordPress installation, I simply submitted a support request and it was done within 8 to 12 hours.  I really liked this customer service touch.  Setting up installs, while not terribly difficult, is boring.  Often hosting interfaces aren’t easy to use.

WPEngine:  I had to set up the install for each website in the backend of my WPEngine hosting account.  I was stepped through it by WPEngine’s customer support.  The downside is I still had to do it, which cost me time.

Winner:  Synthesis.  While I had to wait for their support team to set up the install, I’d rather wait a few hours than do it myself.  I always have other work I can do (or take a few hours off).

As an aside, there really isn’t a backend to Synthesis.  You don’t have to manage anything, which is really nice.  When you need something set up, you simply submit a support ticket and they’ll take care of it.

For example, if you need a CSR for an SSL certificate, you don’t have to generate it with Synthesis.  They’ll do it for you.  WPEngine on the other hand has a self-service platform on which you generate your own CSR.  The advantage of WPEngine is you get what you need immediately.  The downside is you must do it yourself.

D.  Customer Support

Customer support (especially technical support) is an important feature I look for when it comes to hosting services.

I have several high traffic sites.  Sometimes I need knowledgeable help immediately.  When there’s a problem, I’m not patient.

Synthesis Support

Synthesis only has a ticket system.  This was very frustrating.  While their support team works hard, is extremely knowledgeable and handled every problem I threw at them, I had to wait.  For non-urgent matters, support responses can take 8 to 12 hours.  That’s a full day.  Sometimes problems would go back and forth which would end up taking 1 to 2 days to resolve an issue.

If your site is down, your support ticket will be handled immediately.  You obviously can’t abuse this.  I never abused it; however, I did have to use this urgent ticket system a few times (often because I did something super stupid with the functions file… not because there was a problem with the hosting).  Not once did I wait longer for 15 minutes for a response when my site was down.  This isn’t bad, but it still would have been nice to be able to pick up the phone or have a live chat conversation.

In my view it’s too bad Synthesis doesn’t offer 24/7 telephone and/or live chat support.  If they offered this, I may still be with them.  I found it frustrating they didn’t have these options for hosting.

That said, and you’ll see under pricing below, Synthesis pricing is better than WPEngine.  I suspect their pricing is lower is due in part to their restricted customer support.

Also, as mention above, Synthesis manages every aspect of your backend.  There really isn’t a user portal.  If you need anything done, just submit a ticket and they’ll take care of it for you.  It’s pretty cool, but you have to wait for support to handle it.

WPEngine Support

WPEngine invests a lot in support and it shows.  They have 24/7 telephone support.  Nearly 24/7 live chat support and a decent ticket system.

I like having support contact options.  If something isn’t urgent, I submit a ticket.  If it’s urgent I call or use live chat.  Sometimes it’s easier to solve a problem on the phone.  Sometimes it’s easier and more efficient for me to use live chat.  I’ve used all support mechanisms and I love the options.

WPEngine support is amazing.  I know I’m paying for it, but I’m happy to do so.  Their technical support team is extremely knowledgeable.  They’re incredibly patient and kind too.  I’ve spent hours with them on the phone over the last couple of months and they always go above and beyond.  It’s this level of support that makes me glad I switched to their hosting service.

Winner:  WPEngine hands-down.  It’s not that Synthesis support team is bad, it’s just that there’s only a ticket system in place, which is very limiting.

E.  Malware Infection Defense and Removal

Synthesis:

While with Synthesis, one site was infected with malware.  I had no idea until I noticed something buggy.  I tested my site with Sucuri’s malware scanner and discovered one of my bigger sites was infected.

I immediately informed Synthesis who cleaned up my site within days.

Yes, malware removal is included with Synthesis, which is a nice feature.  Synthesis uses Sucuri to remove malware, which is good because Sucuri is a reputable malware removal service.

However, Synthesis hosting did not discover the malware infection, which was disappointing.

WPEngine:

Before moving all of my sites to WPEngine, I was told the hosting service routinely scans for malware.  This attracted me to the service because sites can have an infection without you knowing it.  Malware removal is also included.  Like Synthesis, WPEngine uses Sucuri.

Since moving to WPEngine, Google’s Webmaster Tools alerted me about malware on a site.  I was disappointed WPEngine didn’t bring this to my attention.  However, I can’t conclude it as a failing of WPEngine because they did tell me they scan for malware once per week or so, which means perhaps WMT beat them to it.

Winner:  WPEngine by a hair.  I give the advantage to WPEngine because of their stated feature that they do scan for malware.

TIP:  I do suggest you run your sites through Sucuri’s malware scanner weekly or monthly just to make sure your site(s) aren’t infected.

F.  Pricing

Synthesis:

Instead of setting out the prices here, you can see the Synthesis pricing table here.

When I was with Synthesis, I was on the Advanced plan for $147 per month.  This plan included up to 85,000 page views per day (2,550,000 monthly page views), which is really good.

WPEngine:

You can see all of their plans here.

Currently, I’m on the WPEngine Premium plan which is 1 million to 5 million monthly page views.  This costs me $600 per month.

$147 vs. $600 is a huge.  I’m paying a considerable premium to be with WPEngine.  The only real advantage WPEngine offers is customer support.  Therefore, you can say I’m paying $450 per month for faster support.

Winner:  Synthesis (by a landslide).

Conclusion

Synthesis vs WPEngine Summary Comparison Table

Both Synthesis and WPEngine are great.  Performance is comparable.  They can both handle serious traffic volume.

The key differences are price and customer support.  If you want premium WordPress hosting and saving money is your prime objective, go with Synthesis.  If you like Rolls Royce customer support and are willing to pay for it, go with WPEngine.

When I first needed premium WordPress hosting, I was more concerned about keeping my monthly hosting costs low so I went with Synthesis.  Also, I always liked StudioPress themes and since StudioPress is part of the company I trusted them.

However, now that my stable of large, profitable sites is growing, I’m less concerned about price and am willing to pay a premium for instant customer support.

=> Click here for Synthesis Hosting

=> Click here for WPEngine Hosting



What do you think? Leave a comment!

  • Brad says:

    Jon,

    Very thorough side by side comparison here. I just recently switched to WPengine myself and I can vouch for how well the migration plugin worked. It was pretty simple and I’m not very good with that stuff either. It seemed easier than it should have been, so I found myself double checking a few things with support.

    Have you tried to integrate Ezoic with any of your sites hosted on WPengine. I had two sites with Ezoic integration via pointing the DNS to Ezoic nameservers, but since WPengine uses an A-Record or a CNAME pointed from your registrar to WPengine, I’m having a hard time figuring out how to integrate Ezoic through nameservers somehow. If you’ve done this before I’d love to get your input.

    Thanks for all the great info you share on the blog, it’s helpful and appreciated.

    • Jon says:

      Hey Brad,

      I’m glad you like the premium WordPress hosting comparison.

      I’m not currently using Ezoic. When I did use Ezoic, I was with Bluehost (domain registration) and Synthesis (hosting) and it worked just fine. I see no reason why being with WPEngine would make any difference, but I can’t comment specifically because I have not used Ezoic since migrating all of my sites to WPEngine.

      • Brad says:

        Thanks for the input John. There probably is a way to get it up and running, I will just ask WPEngine. Their support is usually very helpful at helping me stumble my way through figuring it out. Yeah, I never tried Synthesis but I got a huge speed increase from WPEngine so far, and their system has been pretty easy and maintenance free.

  • Zack M says:

    Hey Jon,
    Great info and comparisons! I’m in the middle of choosing a new host. I currently have shared hosting with A2 and I pull in about 60,000 visitors a month 300 GB of bandwidth ( I know this is a drop in the bucket for you). Looking at my analytics, it looks like my load time is affecting Adsense revenue, especially when the server is throttled.

    Generally speaking from your experience, when did you jump ship from a shared host to a dedicated host and how did you know?

    Also, out of curiosity, from the boost in performance did you notice any increases in Adsense revenue?

    Any insights or a link to an article would help.

    • Jon says:

      Hey Zack,

      I upgraded to Synthesis at about 500K monthly pageviews. I ultimately switched and have been with wpengine since then because they have better customer support with 24/7 telephone support and live chat. If Synthesis would have had better support, I’d have stuck with them. I didn’t notice any AdSense improvement… but I really like wpengine because they’ve helped me with so many issues over the years.

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