Migrating Our WordPress Blog to WP Engine

by Jake Johnson

Recently we moved our WordPress blog with 100k+ monthly uniques, 500 blog posts, and thousands of comments to WP Engine.

It took less than an hour. Most of that was watching the migration plugin do it’s thing while I drank my coffee. Soon after, we saw speed improvements up to 50%.

Previously we were on Media Temple, much beloved by professional designers and developers until they were acquired by GoDaddy. After substantial downtime last summer, we began looking for a new home. We needed a host with virtually zero downtime and world-class support. However, we gave Media Temple the benefit of the doubt. Downtime is inevitable. Since then, things were okay besides some random 522 errors. Until this morning.

Apparently our DB_HOST URL specified in wp-config.php that was set by MT wasn’t resolving, which brought down our entire blog. We quickly diagnosed the issue and updated the URL ourselves with no word from Media Temple. Shortly after contacting support, they told us it was happening to other customers as well and they’d investigate the issue.

Secretly I was anticipating the move to WP Engine for months. Built-in CDN, EverCache, and direct Git integration is the bee’s knees. I just needed a reason to invest my time in doing so and get some buy-in. Now was my chance!

I recommended WP Engine to the team over other providers with similar offerings because it’s the whole package with phenomenal support. They had glowing reviews everywhere on the web. Other hosts touted great performance and power features but were lacking in ease of use, support, uptime, or something else. I will say that Pantheon looked exceptional and I’d consider it a comparable solution, but it’s more expensive.

Making the Move

Migrating required very little thinking which is nice when your blog just went down and your Keurig is still boiling water before 9am. I simply installed the migration plugin and pasted the plugin settings from the WP Engine “Site migration” page. After that I clicked the “Migrate” button and watched some classic Bootstrap progress bars hit 100% completion. The plugin goes through a service called BlogVault for backing up your WordPress instance and delivering it to WP Engine. Everything was transferred successfully without a hitch.

After the migration was complete, I created a new backup point in the WP Engine dashboard and reviewed the blog with the team. It looked perfect.

If you’re making the move yourself, here’s the migration guide. Once you’re done with that, going live is a simple 3 step process:

  1. Add your domain to WP Engine
  2. Update the WordPress and Site Address in the WP admin panel
  3. Point Your DNS to WP Engine via CNAME or A Record

The only hiccup I encountered a bit later was that Disqus mapped some thread discussions to test URLs for both WP Engine and Media Temple. Uploading a URL map to Disqus cleaned that up quickly. I also had to rebuild the XML sitemaps after changing the WordPress blog and site URLs to (step 2).

Streamlined Deployment

Like other WordPress hosts nowadays, WP Engine comes with a production and staging environment. What I like most is the environment-based Git push functionality. After pasting in my SSH public key, it feels like I’m using Heroku with no additional configuration necessary. Previously I was using Codeship along with rsync for continuous deployment. This is going to be a bit simpler.

Performance Gains

I saved the best part for last. After the switch to WP Engine we saw our page load times cut in half on GTmetrix using their default test server region. 50% speed improvement. When tested side-by-side using, roughly 37% improvement. Obviously the built-in CDN and performance optimizations give WP Engine the edge, but I’m pleased with the results!

So far we’re happy with WP Engine and I’ll be updating this post as time goes on with more information. If you’re considering WooCommerce on WP Engine, you should check out our WooCommerce sales tax plugin for calculating sales tax at checkout. It’s fast and easy to use!

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