WHAT DOES WORDPRESS REQUIRE FROM A HOSTING PROVIDER ?
Did you know that…..
• About 30% of all websites have been built with WordPress
• More than 50% of all new websites are WordPress based
• 27% of the top 10 000 traffic sites are WordPresses
• Over 100 000 developers create for WordPress
Clearly it is here to stay, and because of its popularity and open source code it has special needs in terms of hosting, management and maintenance.
Run a few Google searches on “Managed Woordpress Hosting” or “Best WordPress Hosts” and you will soon pick up the elements of WordPress hosting that are seem relevant. make sense and are common to most of the offerings.. But there is a lot of noise there, and there are functions that are more important than others depending on your situationand requirements.
To cut through the clutter, we can tell you right now that the most important is what help you will get when things go wrong. And after that will be the advice and assistance you get when planning, designing and executing builds and changes. It is a bunch of things all in the area of SUPPORT, so that means language, reputation, time zones, etc. Put that top of list. Security (which can also mean “things not going wrong”) and speed should be the next two listed.
This is how we see it….. Ordered roughly in importance, which varies depending on your usage.
- Load Speed
- Managed Hosting
- Server Configuration
- Backup Facilities
- Uptime Deals
Which leaves you with the decision on Deciding on The Best WordPress Hosting for You.
Like we said above, support – support – support. No matter what goes wrong, it is people who can identify the problem and help you with the fix that gets everything going again. And stops it happening again. You ideally want multiple levels of good support, access to specialists, and people who understand both WordPress and the underlying operating systems. What you don’t want is hosting support people who tell you that your query is a developer issue and that they cannot assist. Unfortunately this happens and it is understandable in that there needs to be a restriction in how far support can be extended. But they should be sympathetic and offer practical advice – even if that is only to suggest that you contact a developer, and they should have a list available.
You need to understand that the WordPress CMS itself is a complex machine that stores your data and pages in a complicated system of files, folders and databases. What are easy pushbutton dashboard controls for you are actually driving complicated scripts in the background which are making myriad decisions while they read and write to files and databases. Plugins interact with each other and the WP engine and every now and again there are clashes and incompatibilities between these modules and also with the underlying pHp language versions. Outstanding upgrades complicates this further. The end result is that things break, stop working, and worst of all your site closes down. This is where the quality of support can save the day.
This could be a subject that is discussed ad nauseum but, for now, accept that support is critically important.
Local (South African) based hosting ensures that the support people are in your time zone and that they can be reached with a simple telephone call. Or visited with a baseball bat!
We use xneelo (ex-Hetzner) inshore and offshore managed servers which we own, use for our customers, and do not share externally. We also offer our boutique service where we are your first line of holistic support and the ISP host (xneelo) is the second line of specialised support. That’s two distinct levels of support.
Security refers primarily to the defensive systems emplyed by the security administrators to prevent the server and your website files from being compromised by viruses, trojans and other malware. At the very least your host should have secure systems in place to deter common attacks They should also have systems for automatic malware detection and removal
This is difficult to determine, but the host should have a reputation for a fierce and agressive attitude towards security, even if that means inconveniencing the users.
An example of this would be the huge disruptions caused recently at xneelo where support for pHp 5,6 was removed due to exploitable holes in the operating system. This meant that some older WordPress systems would simply not work and certain plugins (remember there are literally hundereds of thousnads available) would fail due to unsupported code. A compatibility tool was developed which identified the code, a version roll-back roll-forward was provided for testing, and a 12 month notice period was set before the support was removed. A lot of work for some – but a necessary exercise to keep security standards high. Yet many host facilities still support version 5,6 with all its known vulnerabilities.
For our clients, we modified their sites and ensured that the switch over was a non-event for them.
You will also need Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) for encrypting the transmission of ecommerce transaction data. The secure site status, indicating trustworthiness, has also become an important Google ranking signal which effects your website’s visibility in the search engines. The Chrome and Firefox browsers are already warning website visitors that sites are unsecure (and potentially dangerous) due to non-compliance with SSL. Not something you want your visitors to see.
Almost every host will offer offer SSL certificates, but the prices vary from company to company. Some companies include a free SSL certificate when you sign up for a hosting plan, while others can charge up to R1500pa. Our servers are set to enable SSL at no charge using a free WP approve plug-in and a simple .htaccess modification. Problem solved.
Security is one of those services that is dull and boring, and inconvenient at times, but it’s there watching your back and preventing disasters around the clock. Issues that you really know little about because they don’t happen to you. Make sure it is good and in place.
Google have recently been quite specific in identifying site load speed as a major relevance signal in their SEO algorithims. Accept that as a given wisdom. And for your website visitor you want a good user experience (UX) which also means that your site site should start displaying within a second or two. Two very good reasons to have a fast page delivery. So speed is a major factor. A rule of thumb is that some image should be loaded within 1 (one) second. A poor local network (wi-fi?) may compound that but it’s a reasonable test from a desktop machine on a fastish fibre-optic connection. You could also use Pingdom or one of many other speed measurements such as PageSpeed Insights or WebPageTest. If left unoptimized, WordPress can be a resource-heavy application so you need top end hardware in place to get the best performance. There are also tricks and improvements that can be made to the code to load faster.
But we are talking web hosting here so what do you look for. The servers need to have fast processors, an abundance of RAM, must not be overloaded with websites, be cached where possible, and should use SSD (solid state drive) storage to deliver that kind of performance.
Our servers meet all these requrements and we can provide test site URLs for you to measure WordPress site load times.
Shared public servers are just a no-no. These are typically the services offered for under $10pm (less than R160pm) and are usually overloaded, offer thin support levels and consistently underperform due to security compromises. You can also pick up server reputation problems from the shared IP address. Small design outfits often use WordPress because of the non-technical requirement and consequently are largely unaware of the best practices for plugin selection and malware avoidance. This invariably leads to high resource consumption due to software conflicts and trojan infestations which all deplete processing power and cause sluggish server performance. Avoidance is your best tactic here.
Your other options are dedicated owned servers (extremely expensive) and VPS (virtual private server) hosting (also expensive) and both come with a high technical requirement as they are unmanaged. Far too many complications with this solution.
But there is the dedicated, mangaged server option with limited shareing. This provides the cost advantage of sharing without the security and performance dangers. The server owner controls every customer so the content load can be monitored, managed and balanced and there is a very low security risk for the same reasons. This means that the hosting costs are affordable and all the benefits of managed shared hosting are available with the risks minimised to acceptable levels. When action needs to be taken against a suspect website then there are no permission issues as the server is not public.
We use our own dedicated and managed servers for WordPress hosting.
You may read of optimised hosting and managed hosting, and it may refer to the server environment and/or the WordPress environment. These are fuzzy terms, but some of the functions are important to have in place. You should contact a web host’s customer support team to learn the specifics of its WordPress hosting.
If hosting is defined as unmanaged then you are given space on a server and what happens next is essentially up to you. On an unmanaged server you are forced to carry the burden of system administration for your site. Running a successful WordPress site is hard enough without constantly fretting over ports, proxies and potential server meltdowns. Managed hosting options will almost certainly have better security systems in place than anything you can hack together and your WordPress installs will be automatically upgraded with each new release.
Our servers are optimised for WordPress and are fully managed.
This is easier to quantify as specifications can easily be compared. Most of these issues relate to speed and reliability.
PROCESSING and LOAD SPEED factors
– Solid state drives (SSD) instead of hard disk drives (HDD)
– Plenty of RAM
– Current high end processors
OPERATING SYSTEM Issues
– Should meet WordPress’s latest server requirements (PHP 7.2+, MySQL 5.6+, HTTPS support, and Nginx or Apache with mod_rewrite module).
SOFTWARE FEATURE Sets
– Email should offer a Webmail interface, autoresponders for out-of-office, forwarding, aliasing, spam filtering controls, traffic logging, etc
– Database controls must include pHp-MyAdmin.
– Backups must be made daily with at least 14 day history and user driven restore controls.
Our servers meet all the above requirements.
When all else fails (and sometimes as a first resort) it is the quality and depth of your backups that will save the day.
The host should offer a daily backup which is stored at the hosting facilty (obviously apart from your machine) and that rolling backup should offer at least the last 10 to 14 days. There should be good interfaces for the user which enables database or file-by-file restore. Most hosting providers should offer tose facilities at a minimum.
Users should install their own systems to create offsite backups (for example using Updraft and cloud storage) to keep archive backups for long term historical backup.
Uptime is a critically important factor, and nearly every hosting provider claims a 99,9% uptime rate. The problem is that it is very difficult to prove these figures and although words like “guaranteed” and “free hosting if we fail” deals are touted, there is little in the way of services to see if these instances ever occur. Your best bet is to ask the host for proof of uptime and to ask around on hosting forums.
Apart from your visitors bad experience in arriving at a dead site (were they ever a visitor?) there is the risk of a serious Google index downgrade if a Google crawler discovers the outage. You just don’t want this to happen.
We place this factor last as it really is a minor issue. Your website, especially if it is a sales and income generator, needs to meet all the above requirements and that generally takes some effort and cost which will be reflected in the price. Skimping on price could have a huge hidden cost in reliability, performance, search engine rankings, downtime and useability.
Anything advertised at under $15pm (R230) should be raising a red flag. It is just not sustainable to meet these requirements at that rate, and there will be compromises in areas that are not apparent to you. Likewise, it is not necessary (or justifiable) to be paying the +$100pm (R1600) rates charged by WP Engine, Bluehost and Pagely for their top end packages It’s about balance – pay a fair price for the features but not a stupid price. If you must have a US based server, then we would suggest Siteground as being perfect for bloggers and small business owners. There is just the communication and time zone issues to consider.
Some hosts may require a contractual obligation of 12 to 24 months with a setup fee if they handle the transfer in. We currently charge R280pm + vat for Standard WordPress hosting and email administration with no contract obligations or transfer fees.
Deciding on The Best WordPress Hosting for You
Traditional Shared WordPress Hosting
Shared hosting is the common entry-level point for those new to WordPress. It’s where a single host parcels up sections of its servers to multiple websites. Everything runs side-by-side and each site can only access its own segment of the server.
Cost: Shared hosting is typically the cheapest way of hosting a site. Deals as low as $6 (R100) a month are available.
Low server maintenance burden: You’re limited in how much access you have to the actual server you’re on, but the host will take care of installing and updating services such as PHP and MySQL.
Lack of control: If you want to configure advanced server options, you probably won’t be able to on a shared hosting package.
Performance: Most shared hosting packages will still struggle if you start to experience high traffic. You’re also vulnerable to sluggishness caused by issues with other sites on the machine you are hosted on.
Security: Many sites on one machine means many more ways for bad guys to potentially get at your site.
Optimised & Semi-Managed WordPress Hosting
These are effectively the hosts that advertise WordPress hosting as distinct from regular website hosting service. You just need to Google “wordpress website hosting” to get an idea of the massive number of offerings. It is pretty daunting to deal with this lot and select your optimum provider.
Optimised & Semi-Managed Boutique WordPress Hosting
This is effectively where we fit in. This website (Web-Hosting-RSA.co.za) explains our boutique role where we position between the designer/developer and the hosting provider and offer that extra level of advice, management, support and help at little if no extra cost. And this concept extends to our WordPress hosting as explained through this particular page.
Virtual Private Server (VPS) WordPress Hosting
A Virtual Private Server (VPS) is a great in-between solution for sites that are too big or resource-heavy to really work well on a shared hosting account but that maybe don’t justify having their own server.
Virtual Private Servers parcel up server space in such a way that you are effectively running your own machine in isolation.
You’re in control: Outside of the basic hardware at your disposal, you’re in total command.
Cost-effective: Maybe. VPS is significantly more expensive than shared hosting, but you typically have access to considerably more power and flexibility. A well-tuned, low-cost VPS can potentially deliver some quite astonishing WordPress performance.
Security: Your site lives in its own little world so you’re not at risk from noisy neighbors or vulnerabilities nearby.
But your control is not total: You’re free to tinker with configuration and settings, but the hardware is still outside your area of control.
You need a system administrator: Maintaining a server on a business-critical, public-facing site is not for the faint-hearted. Every aspect of your site’s technical setup is your problem so you need that technical expertise. Very expensive.
Dedicated WordPress Hosting
Dedicated WordPress hosting is pretty much the top of the hosting tree. It’s the next logical step up from running a VPS when you want full control over your own physical machine. The disadvantages are the prohibitive pricing and a heavy system administration burden.
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