Bridging the Plan Pricing Gap

One of my good friends runs a playhouse that puts on shows regularly to great reviews. Their website visitor traffic is fairly constant and drives almost all of their ticket sales on a daily basis. They’re a small business with less than 10 full time employees and a lot of volunteers. Recently, they had an astoundingly good review and one of their plays was a runaway hit. Their web host throttled them when they hit their plan limit and they lost a large amount of sales due to loss of uptime.

They are now moving to WP Engine.

We never throttle customers or cut their sites off for getting a traffic spike. Traffic spikes are a great thing to happen to your site, and WP Engine wants to be your partner in that.

Bridging the gap

We’ve noticed that sometimes the set plan limits on visitors may not be enough for our customer sites in a given month. Traffic spikes and natural site growth have a habit of bumping sites over the plan limits in a given month, and until now, WP Engine hasn’t had a way to bridge the gap between, for example, the $29 Personal plan and the $99 Pro plan, which might sometimes mean that customers feel the pressure to upgrade before their budgets permit.

For my friends at the playhouse where every dollar matters, the extra money saved from not having to switch to a new more expensive plan every month is a good thing for them. It keeps costs in line while allowing them the peace of mind to know we’ll handle their sudden spikes in traffic.

So to provide this bridge between plans, and to cover the incremental costs of keeping our server capacity open for your extra visits, starting in September, WP Engine will begin allowing for overages on the number of monthly visits for your plan level with a simple pricing approach.

In the next few weeks, customers will be receiving a tailored email depending on their current usage. This will include details about your visitor count, and details about the plan. You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions via the email as well.

How Overages Will Work

If your traffic should ever exceed the set amount described in your plan, you’ll notice overages added to your invoice in blocks of 1,000 visits at $1 per block.  If you are on an annual payment plan and exceed the allotted monthly limits, we will charge your account for the overage fees for that month.

As an example, on a Personal plan that has a limit of 25,000 visitors a month, if you get an extra 20,000 visitors you only get charged $20 for the increased traffic over the plan limit. Since our next plan level is Professional at $99 per month, the overage charge saves you the extra cost of $50 per month had we upgraded you to the next plan level.

For now, if your website sees a one-time traffic spike, or you’re over your current plan limits, WP Engine servers will handle the spike in visitors, and you can stay on the same pricing plan. However, if your traffic is closer to the next pricing plan, we may reach out to recommend that you upgrade as it would be cheaper for you than paying for the overages.

You can soon monitor your account usage at any time from within our User Portal. There, we will indicate if your plan is already over limit. This will give you the opportunity to change your traffic levels, anticipate the overage cost or upgrade to a higher plan.

If you have any questions please open a ticket and we’ll be glad to respond.

Thank you for being our customer,
Tomas and the WP Engine Team

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  1. says

    Wow this is great news! I’m on my first month with wpengine and am very happy with everything, especially support and the staging area which is great but I was beginning to see I will probably be over my plan limit and can’t afford the next pricing plan right now… I was actually thinking of going back to my old hosting provider (i was dreading the possibility)… this could not have come at a more perfect time for me! I so wanted to stay… now I will!

  2. says

    Very fair. It’s a win-win situation, WPEngine is driven for and by the clients, so that’s just adding to already incredible service WPEngine is now.
    I can’t number how many companies in all sizes and areas can’t do it: they prefer to serve themselves.
    Congrats WPEngine!!!

  3. says

    I have just joined you today and I love this news already! My site has the occasional spike in traffic and it is epic you won’t overcharge me or upgrade my plan for this.

    • says

      Hey Matt, thanks for the comment. We’re glad you’re loving being part of WP Engine. Keep us posted if we can help out in a support ticket, help.wpengine.com!

      -Austin

  4. Pippen says

    What about the months when you are not using all the traffic you have paid for? I know it is not common practise but you should really get traffic credits for the traffic you don’t use.

    One example: I am on the Business plan and currently have about 160k visitors a month but was already over 400k. So currently my plans allows for 240k more visitors at no extra cost but the moment I go back over 400k I am charged extra.

    The fairest solution would be to account for traffic every month and give credits in months of under-usage that you can use in months when you go over your limit.

    • says

      I don’t know about this one. It’s like if you lease a car and then don’t drive it as much as the guy who goes over his mileage allotment and has to pay extra. You don’t pay less per month from not putting the car to more use.

    • Pippen78 says

      Hi Austin,

      fair point and WPEngine is great value given all it includes. It’s just because the # of visitors is the baseline of your pricing structure that I think a different way of accounting would be useful.

    • says

      Your argument does make sense, but unfortunately that wouldn’t match our actual cost structure.

      Whatever plan you’re on causes us to reserve space for you on a cluster — an amount of CPU cycles, RAM, caching space, MySQL processing power, and so on. All “real costs,” in that no one else is using it, which is important if you burst under traffic — you need there to be no one else also bursting and taking up the space! Besides the fact that all sites’ traffic naturally varies over the days and weeks on different cycles.

      Now, if you go over a little bit, that means we just stop ourselves from perhaps putting additional customers on that cluster. We charge you a little more (in overage) which offsets that loss we would otherwise have, and everything is fine. We run our clusters with lots of headroom, so this works.

      What you’re proposing is that we look backwards in time and give credits for something that we’ve already incurred the cost on — allocating that space. We couldn’t have known that your site would not in fact use all the resources that it could — we HAD to allocate all those resources! So we can’t then retroactively “credit” your account — we already spend the money doing it.

      On the other hand, you CAN effectively have what you’re proposing! Just downgrade to a smaller tier, and pay the overages that occur.

      The sort of “end game” of this story would be if we charged by the 1000 vists completely, with no tiers at all. But then it would be very hard for us to do capacity planning since customers wouldn’t be “declaring” how much capacity they generally need. And then we’d need to allocate even MORE unused capacity on the clusters to account for bursts. Which means we’d also have to charge more per 1000 visitors to account for THAT.

      In short, it sort of amounts to the same thing! But having the tiers means we can bundle other services there, and we can do better capacity planning.

      I hope this makes sense! Just trying to be 100% transparent about what our costs are, and therefore how we’re thinking about things.

  5. says

    Excellent news! The pricing gap between the various plans is pretty big, so whoever came up with this idea should at least get a big fat bonus, if you ask me. Already, with the existing features, WP Engine is pretty hard to beat (if not impossible). With the pricing gap solution, you guys take the cherry on top of the cake!

    • says

      Hey Anthalis, thanks for the love :-) We want to keep being the company you can say that about, and that means always moving forward and pushing the limits of an amazing customer experience! Keep the feedback and the ideas coming!

      -Austin

  6. says

    Guys, stop being too good… feels like the “to be true” part my might follow soon. And this comes while other hosts and managed hosting teams are charging us like crazy or upgrading us without letting us even plan for the irrational increase in spending.

    Thanks for being transparent and fair!

  7. says

    What about a $49/mo plan for 3-5 websites? We would like to create websites to do different things including a blog with a unique URL, but it’s not worth the $1100 per year. Any chance on bridging the $49 to $99 gap there?

  8. says

    Great news.
    I appreciate the proactive move here. It make growing pains just that much more tolerable.
    Only other recommendation that I would have is to have additional website overages as well. I am almost at my 10 site limit and some of the sites are rather small so the traffic is not an issue as I am nowhere near the usage limit. However, having to pay 2.5x more for adding one additional site is rather steep.

    I guess another level of pricing between professional and business could work too.

    But just having a small cost for a single site or two would make it easier to add more onto my beloved WPengine account.
    You guys are my favorite host by far!

    • says

      Good point, thank you, and in fact yes we’ll almost surely do this. We need to get through a few months of this new pricing structure and make sure everyone is comfy, and then that’s something that’s already on our roadmap.

      • says

        Jason,

        I really, really wish the support team had given me that assurance when I asked them a week ago. Unfortunately we had to make an emergency course correction when we were told we could _not_ count on what you just said.

        We just flipped the DNS switchover, sorry, this assurance came too late for us.

  9. says

    I think that this is a step in the right direction. The more flexible you are with your pricing the more people you will have those customers. If you do for the gap and I think you do and away by allowing for the content delivery network however I would keep the use the same so you don’t have to pay for bandwidth and allowed for maybe 3 to 5 domains.

    The gentleman what about going over 400,000 visitors per second time and then being put on a plan that would double his cost is a very very valid point. Who would want to live in fear of something like that. I believe that the upgrade should be on a case-by-case basis I thought that’s always how it was? So Person were to go over 400,000 consistently well of course yes that would be the price you have to pay however if it is consistent viewers are under 200 then he should maybe have to pay a small fee like what it sounds like what you’re talking about. Where he would then pay a monthly one dollar per thousand visitors fair.

    I’m glad that you doing this considering the cost of hosting with WP engine for very high traffic customers. I also love to know the method that you using to actually count the page views? Is it all back end? Would you ever allow for a user to bring another content delivery network That possibly could add to the hosting. And manage it just like W3 total cash would not literally manage the CDN but I have it so it would work properly?

    • says

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. You had several questions in there, so let me answer all of them in turn:

      For the case of the person bursting over 400,000 visits, versus being normally at 200,000 and bursting sometimes, that person is welcome to downgrade to a Professional package and just stay in overage, with the bill varying each month according to actual usage. So I think we do have a pretty reasonable answer to that.

      As for the method of counting the visits (we don’t use page-views, but rather unique visits), we detail that here: http://wpengine.com/2012/04/visitors/

      And yes that is all back-end, i.e. from true web logs, not from Javascript or similar.

      As for the CDN being there or not being, that does NOT add to your “visits” anyway because visits are unique IPs, not “hits” or “pageviews.” So that won’t affect that metric.

      Nevertheless, to answer your question, yes you can definitely keep your own CDN and use our service. Or you can use our CDN as described on the pricing page, in which case we manage the CDN for you as well. We’re happy both ways.

      Also you do not need to use W3TC to manage the CDN, and in fact that plugin does not manage it completely — it will miss quite a few URLs which ought to ride on the CDN. Instead, we manage that for you and we do a complete job of getting content onto the CDN where it belongs.

  10. Chris Eller says

    Wow–it’s interesting to see that we weren’t the only ones that BlueHost throttled.

    After three days chasing down why our site was so slow I finally found a web post that talked about BlueHosts’s CPU throttling. They mentioned how the CEO of BH had spent so much time and money and was very proud of CPU throttling.

    As we left and migrated our sites to WPEngine I let BlueHost know that if they had spent that money on a simple system to automatically upgrade a user temporarily as needed they would have more revenue, happier clients and MUCH better client retention rates.

    Looks like WPEngine understand that.

    Thank you WPEngine.

    Chris

    • says

      Hey Chris, thanks for the comment. We’ll never throttle your website! Your traffic is too important to your business :-)

      Thanks for being part of the WP Engine family.

      -Austin

  11. says

    Switching to wpengine is the best move I made since creating my website. It has removed so many of worries for the things I was concerned about or did daily.

  12. says

    A great idea and compromise for spikes in traffic but what about us professionals who build and host sites for clients? We got to 10 sites in just a few months,and the next jump takes us from $100 a month to $250 a month. This sucks the margin out of the fees we charge. Any thoughts for a middle ground on the number of sites allowed?

    James

    • says

      Thanks for the note.

      You’re right that the pricing is not idea if you’re reselling services. It’s often true that reselling services requires different kinds of pricing than what would make sense for end users — Amazon Web Services would have the same problem with spikes in bandwidth that they’d bill you for, for example, or if you had to double your costs there by bumping up from one type of server to the next type to handle the load of all your clients.

      If you’re looking for something more proper for a reselling arrangement, it’s probably best for us to discuss that separately. For example, it might make sense to put you on a different sort of plan which still scales with the number of clients you have, but leaving you plenty of room to make money, either by a base rate per install, or by us billing the customers directly.

      Let’s chat outside of the commenting system! :-)

      • says

        Hi Jason,

        I’m in a similar situation (though just getting started with WP Engine with a single-site to test) as a web designer, hosting client sites at WP Engine. Fortunately, I was able to talk a couple existing clients into paying an annual hosting fee, combined with my funds for my sites, to come up with the funds to hit ’10 site’ plan… but I’ll also be fearing the jump to 25 in the future. AND, if you had a 5-site plan, it would have made my entry to your service less financially stressful. :)

        A nice solution might be doing what you’re currently doing, but adding a 5-site, and then letting them be stacked under one account. So, if I had a 10-site, I could add another 5 or 10 or step up to the 25, etc. (so, I’d end up with 15, 20, or 25).

    • says

      Thanks so much for the *huge* compliment. It means the world to us when our customers let us know that they are well-taken care of by our service.

      Thanks for being part of the WP Engine Family!

      -Austin

  13. says

    I have a lot of issues with this.
    We get 262892 a month on our $100 a month plan. Yes, that means we are going over but that’s not close to 400k visits. 262892 means we pay an extra $162 which is a 150% increase and costing more than the $250 plan. But the $250 is also way more visits than what we need.

    For the price of $250 for 262892 visits, I’m better off getting a high end dedicated server that will very rarely ever go down anyway. Unfortunately I might have to move off of WP Engine which is a shame because I kind of liked it here.

  14. Ben says

    well one problem i have with this is that that rate is over what typical advertising revenue would be for a site. in the specific case of my biggest client using wp engine the is exacerbated by the difference in your counting method to the pint where this equals roughly 100 times the rate we are making per visitor, in this case:

    We are currently getting ~110k visitors (~90k uniques), per month on business plan which should be about 70% overhead but your system counts our monthly visitors at about 30k per day and adsense is paying about 11 cents per thousand visitors (not pageviews here i have calculated the per visitor number). So effectively we are in a situation where for every dollar we make from traffic our infrastructure is costing us more then 60.

    Not sure how we bridge that gap.

    • Benjamin Hansen says

      For anyone reading this in the future, a follow up to our story. We enabled cloudflare on the account in question with the assistance of wp engine staff and we have managed to stamp out about 80% of our ghost traffic. Given this result our math is quite a bit more workable.

      Thanks again for all your always top notch support WPE!

  15. Dave Doolin says

    This would be good, because I noticed a placeholder account here, which I do not post on or promote, shows over 600 visits in the last month.

    That doesn’t really compute.

  16. says

    This sounds quite fair, and in general, beneficial to both WP Engine and we customers. However, I can think of one situation that scares the heck out of me!

    What if I’m a single site on the $29/mo plan or I have some clients on the $99/mo plan, and one of the sites gets hit by a bot-net and shoots up to a half-million or million unique visits?

    Will I get a bill for $400 to $1000 extra that month? In that case, I’d rather be on a host that shut my site down, because at this stage in the game, that might shut me down.

    I wasn’t concerned about that with the ‘old’ policy, as you guys counted things based on average traffic… which I can manage the cost of. But, this new policy, while great in many ways, could land me in a VERY unpleasant surprise. Do you have a clause in the policy on how to deal with that kind of situation? Thanks.

    • says

      I agree with everyone that this is great news! But I have to also wonder what your response will be to Steve’s question. I can see this quickly turning into a disaster if your WordPress site is hacked. Would also be interested in seeing a clause… Thanks.

    • says

      I have a very REAL concern for Steve’s comments. As I look at my overage information, I’m looking at an Overage under this new system that is 5x my normal bill! :( Instead off $29/mo I’m looking at $153. I did not receive the email breaking things down as mentioned in this blog article. I just stumbled upon the overage report in my dashboard. That overage was for last month, and it looks like this current month is running even hotter.

      The problems is that ACTUAL traffic (people that is) is actually down and going lower. :(

      From what I can see, I’m getting hit by Chinese bots that are loading things like my css page ridiculously often. I may have a photo causing trouble in Google images or something as well.

      Before I came to WP Engine, I would have simply run my site through Cloudflare, which would have stripped out all the botnets at the domain level before they ever hit my server. But now I’m running my site through an A record per your setup instructions, and I can’t see how I can even setup Cloudflare for that type of protection.

      Before this overage, I was planning on upgrading to a professional plan and moving a couple other sites in. But with the overage and the calculation on ‘hits’ not visitors (I’ve read the definition of a visit, but what I’m seeing in the overage reports is hits not visits even by wpengine’s definition as far as I can tell….)

      Is this overage report not working? Spitting out bad data? Is that why I see the amount in the overage report, but haven’t seen this scary bill yet?

      Please tell me that this someone else at WPEngine or other customers have noticed this and someone is working to fix it. Can’t afford $153 per month for a site that is bringing 15-20k (google analytic) uniques per month.

      Very scared to think what my client’s are going to say if they get a similar report on their sites. Please lets fix this.

      • Benjamin Hansen says

        FWIW i just set up cloudflare with wp engine this morning so far everything is going well. what you do is replicate your existing custom dns records inside cloudflare before switching to their name servers.

        • Alex Musgrove says

          Hi Benjamin,

          Thanks for sharing your tips on CloudFlare. I know that our Team has spoken with you about that, and I’m glad you implemented it without incident. Let us know how we can help going forward.

      • Alex Musgrove says

        Hi Brett,

        Thanks for sharing your concerns and your feedback with us in regards to this process. We’re glad you’ve been so proactive about communicating with us and acting as an informed liaison with your clients. We’ll do whatever we can to help.

  17. Richard says

    Can you put a cap on this so that it doesn’t bankrupt you? It’s ok if everyone is coming to buy something. But if they’re just coming to look at something it’s going to hit the site owner in the pocket big time!

    • Ben Metcalfe says

      Understandably, it us costs to serve a page and provide support regardless of whether that page is selling something or completely non-commercial. We believe our overage charges are priced fairly – ensuring those who do experience overages don’t have to immediately upgrade to the next level of service. It also keeps things fair for those who don’t go over their plan’s monthly allocation.

  18. says

    Why you didn’t approve my previous comment? I’m WP Engine customer. And I still can’t understand why my traffic overage Google Analytics Stats for 5-7 times…I have about 900-1200 visitors / day, I’ve already changed my plan from personal to professional, I’ve turned on CDN, but I still see in my overage stats, that I have 5000 visitors / day…So if I could have it really, my revenues from Google Adsense could be 5 time more and I can to pay for a Business plan…But now I can’t change to Business plan, with only 1 active site and 900-1200 visitors a day…Do I need to change a hosting? Is WP Engine my wrong choice?

    • Austin Gunter says

      Hi Alex, apologies for any frustration here. You have one other comment that has been approved and I just commented on it. I’d love to chat with you directly about your site’s traffic via email where we can dig into the details and work them out together. My goal is to make sure you have the best possible hosting for your site – the fastest, most scalable, and best value – period.

      Without looking at your site’s traffic directly, I cannot comment on your traffic stats, or the traffic from things like Google Bot, etc, that are important for your pagerank and SEO.

      I’d love to help and look closely at this, Alex. Can you please email me, austin@wpengine.com, so we can talk in detail?

      -Austin

  19. says

    So my overage last month was $57.00 — by enabling a CDN for $19.95 I could have avoided this — and you didn’t bother to let me know?

    Not happy.

  20. says

    I think we should be able to bank views.

    So if we are on the 20k/mon plan
    and for the first 3 months we only do 10k
    and on the 4th month we do 50k it should be a wash/break even
    since we paid for 20k and when we needed the extra. it was covered
    but if we went to 60k, then im good with an overage fee of 10k

    • Austin Gunter says

      Hey Adam,

      The way we look at visits is the following. Since we’re committed to never throttling any customer site, that means we always have to keep space open for you to scale. Those resources cannot and should not be used by another customer. Even if you never actually utilize every last bit on a particular month, we’re still making sure server resources are allotted for you when you should need them.

      Does that help?

      -Austin