You thought the answer was easy right? Buy a baby plan from a popular website host or maybe the more costly the better. Well the ideal plan is somewhere in the middle and someone is not providing it to you. May be willingly or may be because there are few providers who want to get their act right.
I personally started hosting my site with HostGator. I went for the most economical and most feature-full plan then. Being able to host multiple sites and having unlimited-everything convinced me that there wasn’t a better plan anywhere else in the world. Only until traffic hit my site and I realized the plan doesn’t allow for unlimited CPU spikes. They locked me out and I had to upgrade to a dedicated server or they’d not unlock my data.
Today I hear of some of the more costly plans dedicated to hosting WordPress exclusively. The prices are outrageous. And that’s because I can see through their technical architecture and know what is offered could really be far more economical.
I’ve even tried some good ones that offer awesome hardware configuration for an awesome price. Unfortunately the software environment abused the resources so much that I decided to take a look inside and get my hands dirty.
What do you need for WordPress hosting?
- Software Environment: WordPress is one of the easiest pieces of software to work with. More so because I’m a WordPress developer 🙂 WordPress needs a standard LAMP environment i.e., Linux as the operating system that hosts everything including your files, Apache (or nginx etc.) as the web server that serves files over the http, MySql as the database server that stores your posts and pages and PHP as the server side language that actually makes WordPress run. I’m sure the more tech-savvy can give more cryptic and scary answers but basically this is it.
- Networking: A good network infrastructure ensures proper networking bandwidth, latency and minimum downtime. Just a vague mention of the location of the data-center spiced up with tech jargon and marketing terms doesn’t really help.
Challenges with WordPress hosting
The challenge begins when traffic starts hitting your site. May be a few repeated url requests or 15-20 visitors will start overloading the CPU. Anything with RAM lower than 1GB and a poor CPU will bring the issues to the fore. You’ll start seeing database connectivity failure… high server load, time-outs etc. The situation starts to reveal itself slowly and you realize you need a more professional hosting setup.
Bigger is not always better. An intelligent way to approach a solution to this issue is to find ways to tame your WordPress install and your server setup to “behave well”. Just because your server isn’t taking the load doesn’t really warrant an upgrade. Disciplining the server and software warrants some professional handling. You need a combination of various types of caching solutions. The cache architecture plugs in latency gaps caused between various service-interfaces like php-sql, or the browser-server pipeline or even data compression.
For many the story ends here. But having a fast and efficient server is not the end of the story for some. Pitching automated backups, the not-really-required plugins, site security that capitalize on FUD (Fear Uncertainty & Doubt) are able to push customers into paying for bells-and-whistles that the customer may never really care or use at the end of the day. And these things are simple enough to get right provided you know what you are doing.
Therein comes the concept of managed hosting — someone configures and sets-up everything for you so that you don’t have to do it. You not only pay for the setup, configuration etc. you also pay for the handling. But this cost is often not a one time cost and is a monthly cost wherein you’d not really need all those services every month.
So again… what’s the best WordPress hosting on the planet?
Short answer — build one yourself.
The better and easier solution — use something that I use.
My WordPress Hosting Setup:
I use Amazon Cloud Services EC2 instance servers. It’s the most comprehensive, flexible and scalable infrastructure. It would be wonderful to know if one can challenge this. AWS allows you to get up and running with a server, configure it for your use, scale up the resources like RAM and processing, hard-drive space as you require with just a reboot. And best of all, you can host multiple sites on the same server ie a shared hosting environment OR you can save such a configuration/setup and launch multiple VPS from the same base server. You can configure automated backups and what not and pay peanuts and increase and decrease your resources as required and accordingly the associated costs.
My AWS Configuration
Before I give you the details, let me mention a nifty little plugin that comes absolutely free. It’s called W3 Total Cache and is a caching solution for WordPress. Other hardware/software configuration tweaks may not have the same effect all of them clubbed together as this plugin alone has. Once you know that your WordPress configuration is working well with W3 Total Cache and you need more space or may want to tweak things it’s time to go for it.
I use apache2.4 configured with the event MPM: This particular configuration allows you to beat other competing web servers while allowing you the well-respected time-tested flexibility of Apache (think easy SEO friendly redirects configurable at a directory level and what not, and this is something that more costly hosts don’t let you do. You have to request them to make such configuration changes to the server). The event MPM gives you all the benefits of concurrent connections and speed without any compromise on flexibility.
Memcached: I also use memcached to speed up things between PHP and sql. Basically it’s a cache that keeps things in the RAM for quick access.
PageSpeed Module: Google’s own server-side caching tweaks for optimizing page-load-time. It makes sure you only serve the bare minimum. It adheres to the web-performance best practices and speeds-up things drastically.
Set properly this gives me a server that’s able to host all my giant WordPress installs and yet perform smoothly and stay cool at the same time.
Why Do Some Of Those Premium Hosts Pitch Using The Nginx Server
Well I use Nginx myself on certain installs. For the WordPress hosting scenario or even for huge traffic spikes, I don’t see a day-night difference. The hosts that pitch Nginx don’t pitch it because you need it. They pitch it because they are hosting hundreds of customers like you and they need Nginx to be able to save their costs.
AWS EC2 Costs
The costs would vary greatly and depend on which instance you use. The devil lies in the finer details — You don’t need to pay for the normal on-demand EC2 instances since they are costlier. Since you are using the EC2 instance as a web host and since the tenancy is pretty predictable, go for EC2 Reserved Instances which get you about 33% discount. This makes it the most reliable, top-performing and the most economical.
What’s The Easiest Way To Go About Getting The Best Damn WordPress Hosting On The Planet
Well I have a fully-customized base AMI that I use to launch VPS for my customer’s needs. I only charge for the initial setup and there’s no ongoing fees etc. unlike other AMIs that charge you hourly. The costs you incur totally depend on you so you can just reconfigure and scale up to 64GB RAM (if you have to) from a mere 2GB just with a quick reboot. It’s too much to summarize the benefits of working with AWS but then at the end… you get the best damn WordPress hosting on the planet with no fuss.