I had a small client where they had half a theme completed and needed another developer to complete and launch their site. I was given instructions on logging into a Linux server where I would have to set up cPanel, MySQL, PHP, etc. Server setup is not my specialty so I recommended we move to GoDaddy. (At the time I was still using GoDaddy’s shared hosting services because it was an affordable solution for my smaller clients. Their servers “just worked” without needing any server modifications.)
I got a huge backlash from both the client and former developer (who was still managing their server). Rightly so as they were on Amazon Web Services (AWS). The problem I had was if I were to take over the project I would have to setup and manage the server. These tasks are very different from my main focus of developing WordPress themes and plugins. Anyway we got it sorted out; The former developer set up the server and he would maintain it. All was fine and dandy.
A few times before launch the server went down with some “Error establishing a database connection”. The former developer would just restart the server and we’d be up and running again. He said he would look into the problem. After launching the site every few months I’d get an email from the client saying “the website is down!”. For a full year I’d get these emails and I’d forward them to the former developer. Finally, the former developer responded by saying he’s no longer associated with the project. The server was restarted, but that would be the last time. Enter WPEngine.
I usually would not recommend a smaller client like this to go on WPEngine as it is costly, but the client’s opinion about GoDaddy and shared hosting in general had not changed. So my second job for this client was to move the site from AWS to WPEngine. In personal interest I took a screenshot of the Google Page Speed score of the site on AWS before moving it and on WPEngine after moving it.
I’m not sure why or how an AWS server would get a “Reduce Server response time” flag, but it just goes to show even a good host can be set up incorrectly. AWS is a very speedy and reliable hosting service if you know what you’re doing. The problem is if you need to set everything up yourself. And if you run into any problems, you need to fix it yourself. Even if you set up a server correctly there may still be things you can do to optimize it for specific CMS’ like WordPress.
Update: This change in page speed is actually very common among clients I move from shared hosting and dedicated servers alike. WPEngine just has their servers optimized to serve WordPress as fast as possible.