The New Era: The Move from InMotion Hosting to WPEngine

This article has been in the works for almost as long as the migration process I’ve undergone. Moving 140 clients to different web hosts – including circumstances where the clients control the domain registrars and you have to play detective – is no small feat, but I’ll get to that later.

Back when I started this side hustle turned business in October 0f 2015 I outgrew HostGator’s reseller plan relatively quickly – it was a year and a half later that I needed to move, and HostGator’s service quality had plunged. To this day some of the horror stories I hear from HostGator now are truly shocking. After careful vetting and due diligence, I selected InMotion Hosting as my web hosting partner. Their dedicated plan was certainly more expensive but reasonable, and their sales representative and onboarding manager made the process of migrating my then 60 clients (many of whom are still with me!) seamless.

For years, I was thrilled with InMotion. Their standard WHM and cPanel system worked well, site speed was up, and everything was running beautifully. Support representatives were prompt and helpful. I was prepared to spend an entire career with InMotion.

Then in 2021 the shit hit the fan.

It was gradual at first as it tends to be. After an uneventful 2020, I noticed that things were going wrong with InMotion. Wait times for priority chat support were taking longer than usual. Chat reps seemed less helpful or knowledgeable. In a few cases chats were prematurely disconnected with no explanation or follow up.

The biggest problems occurred over the summer when a strange sort of apathy seemed to set in among InMotion chat support reps. There were a few notable instances where an SSL failed to auto-renew, resulting in embarrassing “your website is not secure” warnings. I had to personally reach out to them to get it fixed, and despite being credited for the downtime this seemed like a shocking thing to overlook given what I was paying for a dedicated server.

When I contacted them about key issues like security threats they shrugged, either not knowing what I was talking about or linking me to Sucuri articles not even relevant to what we were talking about.

The worst part was that their performance seemed to be degrading. Site times were inexplicably slowing from the hosting site (which I tested extensively using GTMetrix and Pingdom). One very unpleasant incident was autumn of 2021, when some sort of DNS failure on InMotion’s side caused the entire server to go down while I was in the middle of demoing a website. Outages happen but InMotion seemed to have no idea what was wrong. An hour later it was fixed and my clients were understanding, but I was wavering.

After a security breach in December even after following InMotion’s recommendations, during which InMotion was as unhelpful as I’ve come to expect, enough was enough. Between that and another instance where backups were inexplicably disabled for several clients (again, no explanation) it was clear by this point that InMotion couldn’t provide even basic protection anymore.

After a few candid talks with a mentor I’m extremely lucky to have, she told me that WPEngine is what allows her and her company to sleep easy at night. That sounded appealing no matter how much more expensive WPEngine was. That’s what worried me at first – it was going to be a significant price hike. Yet when I looked at WPEngine reviews, even a lot of critical analysis was glowing.

I had looked into WPEngine before but at the time I was leery of the idea of WordPress-exclusive web hosting. What if I wanted to host other CMS platforms? That was five years ago and WordPress was already powering a large chunk of Internet. It’s only further ballooned since then; WordPress now powers about 43% of the entire Internet and is still on an upward trend. Barring some kind of tectonic shift, WordPress is and will continue to be the standard for publishing web content.

Besides, realistically, I know my target audience now. The types of people I work with use WordPress. People dedicated to other platforms aren’t people I’m going to end up working with, and that’s okay. I’ve even convinced a number of clients to move to WordPress based on their needs.

The WPEngine sales representative, Andrew, was professional, courteous and effortlessly dealt with some of my nagging concerns borne from how much of a mess InMotion had turned into. It was a far more personalized version of the sales funnel I had been given by InMotion five years prior. I opted for the “just fucking do it” mentality and signed on within the week. I was eager to offload a lot of the busywork that was taking up so much of my time and to get back to being a web developer.

Then came the complex part. I work with over 140 clients as of this writing. Though many of them are small businesses, some of them control their own domain registrars. Others had outdated E-mail addresses or landlines were being used for two-factor authentication. Between January and April I played the game of digital detective that every web developer gets used to after a while. I tracked people down, I left increasingly urgent voicemails and I stressed the importance of this move. Thankfully, when I made my announcement I received an overwhelming amount of support and excitement from everyone I work with.

This was a blessing in disguise. I wound up doing a ton of housekeeping and got the domain registrars of a lot of my legacy clients (some of whom go back with me 10 years) in order. To this day I cringe at some of the rookie mistakes I made when first starting out. This also gave me the opportunity to connect with some of my clients I hadn’t spoken to in a while – either due to their own being busy or just not needing to talk other than my regular check-ins. It wound up being extremely fruitful despite the stress.

Any lingering doubts I had about WPEngine were put to rest as I slowly migrated each site, the process aided by the seamless migration plugin. The tremendous speed boost was instantly noticeable, and a number of clients expressed amazement. Bounce rates dropped on Google Analytics and clients reported an uptick in activity and customer inquiries.

The support quality also increased dramatically. Given the emphasis on WordPress-driven support required to work at a company like WPEngine, chat reps were far more knowledgeable and willing to go the extra mile in terms of troubleshooting, assisting with migrations and even giving plugin recommendations.

As of Friday, April 29 2022, the last website was moved over. I contacted InMotion the following day to cancel the dedicated server. I thought I was going to need to eat an extra month after being billed, but they graciously refunded me. I subsequently parted ways with my external security company along with canceling relevant licenses including for Imunify360. As I write this I’m still processing the incredible feeling it is to be done. I feel like Thanos at the ending of Infinity War without the genocide.

I came into this article ready to breathe fire and slag off InMotion and my prior external security company (whom I’ve now parted ways with) for letting me down over the past year. Instead, I’ve rewritten chunks of this article to be more positive. I’m extremely pleased with WPEngine and I feel like I’ve secured my business’s future, not to mention fixing a number of mistakes from the past. At this point, my reward for completing this months-long migration project is getting to talk about it.

What I Learned

What I learned from this ordeal is to never assume that good customer service will stay good. It’s certainly not my first time learning that given my reference to HostGator, let alone other companies that have disappointed me over the years (looking at you, Google Workspace).

I also learned the importance of knowing what 10% of your workload is causing 90% of your stress. In this case, my hosting provider wasn’t providing adequate service and it was affecting my projects adversely. No matter what the price hike was, peace of mind and having your time back is priceless.

That leads me into another good reminder: You get what you pay for. Yes, WPEngine even its most ultra-basic level at $30, is significantly pricier than the $6 you would shell out for a basic hosting package with GoDaddy, HostGator or InMotion. Yet the quality of the service not to mention the guarantees in terms of security and performance will save you a lot of headaches.

So the new era has begun and I couldn’t be more excited for it. It’s nice to be a web developer again, but more importantly, it’s nice to have a lot of free time back. So if you’ll excuse me, Yakuza 5 isn’t going to play itself.