Important Elements In WordPress Hosting
What are the important elements in WordPress Hosting?
WordPress: Basic Requirements
WordPress is the most popular open source content management system in the world for web publishing and most web hosting companies support the basic requirements for installing the script by default. WordPress will run on both Linux and Windows servers with the main requirements being support for the latest versions of MySQL & PHP. Managed WordPress web hosting plans include many cloud platform optimizations, software utilities, security enhancements, new web standards, & free developer resources that go beyond the minimum requirements for the CMS. It is important to understand the differences between LAMP/WAMP/LEMP stack software features when evaluating managed WordPress web hosting services.
The Main Web Server Requirements For Running WordPress Are:
- Support for PHP 7.x+
- Support for MySQL v.5.6+ -or- MariaDB v.10.0+
“It is important to verify that a web server supports the requirements for the most recent security version of WordPress”
Starting in 2017, WordPress will also recommend that site owners install the CMS on web servers that support HTTPS standards and include a valid SSL/TLS certificate. Most "one-click" WordPress installers like Softaculous and Fantastico give users the ability to choose between http & https settings for a new site if a SSL/TLS certificate has already been set up on the domain. WordPress includes frequent core code and module security updates, which can be applied either automatically or manually. It is important to verify that a web server supports the requirements for the most recent security version of WordPress, which includes the latest release versions of MySQL & PHP.
WordPress is a complex ecosystem of open source code from developers of custom plugins, widgets, and themes that extend the CMS core functionality. All of the code used in the WordPress platform is tested and peer reviewed by security professionals who include programmers from Automattic, experts at enterprise corporations in IT, and academics in computer science. Development companies offering WordPress solutions used by millions of websites in production regularly release security updates and patched code that must be applied to the installed plugins, widgets, & themes on a website.
With over 25% of the sites on the web running WordPress, there are also thousands of malicious scripts targeting outdated versions of the CMS with the ability to potentially inject malicious code onto a server.
Some of the customized web security solutions developed for the WordPress CMS platform include:
- User management including anti-spam filters
- Automated malware and anti-virus scanning
- Network intrusion with DDoS attack protection
- Single Sign-On & Two-Factor Authentication
- HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS)
- WordPress optimized firewall protection
Each individual WordPress website will need to develop a security configuration that is based on the particular network hardware & software installed on the web server.
Many hosting companies offer managed WordPress platform security which includes automated updates for the stack software as well as anti-virus, advanced firewall, anti-spam, and brute force intrusion protection. Taking advantage of pre-installed PaaS solutions for WordPress security on managed hosting plans can save a lot of time & money for independent publishers and small businesses.
WordPress website owners will also need to install and enable SSL encryption in order to comply with newly introduced web browser standards. On most webhosts this involves the generation of a set of unique public and private encryption keys for each domain on the server. Some SSL/TLS certificates may also require a dedicated IP address to operate correctly in all web browsers or use wildcard settings for multi-domain support. HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) will force https views in the web browser for all pages. Proper configuration of https settings is vital for conducting ecommerce transactions or managing user data with WordPress.
“It is important to schedule at least one MySQL database backup per day that can be used to restore a website in case of any errors.”
WordPress core & plugin updates can be automated on most servers, but it is still important to check the administration panel frequently and apply all third-party developer security patches to the installed codebase. WP site owners can benefit from the availability of a reliable webhost with 24-7 technical support. Best practice is to make regular file and database backups of a WordPress website that can be used to restore services exactly in case of any data loss, server outage, or CMS script malfunction.
Because of the prevalence of automated spam & malware bots which can use the comments, sign-up, and login forms of a WordPress site as vectors for MySQL injection attacks, WP site owners need to install user management features on production websites to screen for potentially malicious activity. This can include establishing fake honeypot settings, Akismet anti-spam on new account registrations, captcha tests on forms & comments, etc. Other third-party modules are available for improving password, cookie, anonymous and registered user security for WordPress.
Some managed WordPress hosting platforms include automated malware and anti-virus scanning of an installed codebase to search for corrupted scripts in file uploads. Others include advanced firewall support and protection for the WordPress login page in order to guard against network intrusions. This can also be accomplished by limiting the number of logins permitted to a user. Single Sign-On and Two-Factor Authentication plugins increase the level of WordPress platform security for popular sites with many registered users.
Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) requires the use of a code received by the user via SMS, phone call, or email. This can include integration of a third-party API service like Google, OpenID, Clef, or Stealth for user information verification. Single Sign-On (SSO) through Jetpack or other services allow users of WordPress.org to easily login to other domains with the same account information and password. Not all hosting platforms will support 2FA & SSO, requiring advanced web development skills to implement.
Automated file and database backup systems can be included as part of the stack software utility set offered by a web hosting plan, or set up through third-party plugins in WP administration. It is important to schedule at least one MySQL database backup per day that can be used to restore a website in case of any errors. File backup systems can be more complex and require more off-site storage space to maintain. There are a wide variety of competing products for file & database backup systems from software companies in the web hosting and WordPress development ecosystem.
Web server hardware configurations are determined by processor speeds, the number of available cores, the amount of installed RAM, and the type of file storage options (SSD, HDD, RAID, etc.) that can provide different levels of web server performance at comparative price levels. With shared hosting accounts, a domain has access to just a small fraction of the total resources of a web server that may be simultaneously hosting thousands of other active domains. Low density servers with a guaranteed lower rate of registered active domain accounts can improve website performance, as well as premium hardware quality and network traffic optimization. PaaS/IaaS products like cloud hosting and managed WordPress hosting packages combine hardware & cloud data center optimization techniques with unique software tools and utilities that can be used to assist professional WP web development.
Many WordPress users are choosing to change from Apache web servers to Nginx for better performance times and support for more website traffic on the same hardware. When the number of simultaneous users exceeds what a shared hosting account will support, WordPress website owners migrate to VPS hosting or dedicated server plans. However, the largest WordPress sites scale to support far more traffic than even a single web server instance or VM can provide, leading to elastic cloud hosting platforms and network server clusters with load balancing & database synchronization. Advanced page caching with Varnish Cache & Nginx is available pre-configured on some managed WordPress hosting plans. Shared hosts often include the option for free CloudFlare CDN integration, which can further increase web server performance by caching frequently viewed or accessed pages internationally.
“Even the DNS server response times have an impact in determining a website's pagespeed and overall performance.”
Most of the major IT companies and webhosts are now offering cloud hosting and managed WordPress hosting plans as PaaS products that include advanced page caching, network load balancing, and web server performance optimization pre-installed/pre-configured at affordable prices for small business websites. High traffic WordPress sites that need to scale with elastic cloud servers have an increasing number of PaaS/IaaS options for production solutions available including public, private, hybrid, and managed cloud services. The combination of premium hardware, low density Nginx servers, multi-layered caching with Varnish, APC, OPcache, Memcached, etc., running WordPress under PHP 7.x settings with HHVM, and cloud load balancing on network traffic in the data center can combine to create the most optimized performance for high traffic websites that need to scale beyond 10 million monthly page views. Virtualization and elastic cloud replication of WordPress websites works together with version control to enable the publishing of continually new app code to market through distributed online WordPress programming teams.
Calculating the bandwidth requirements for a WordPress website depends on the application, community traffic, amount of media embedded in the web pages, and many other factors. Most small single-user blog sites use less than 30 GB in monthly transfer. Popular websites built on WordPress regularly use between 100 GB and 1 TB of bandwidth per month. Most VPS and dedicated server hosting plans have upper limits of 5 to 10 TB of data transfer per month. Websites serving more than that level will need to pay extra for the bandwidth, depending on the account plan. Many webhosts offer "unlimited" bandwidth offers primarily targeted to low traffic site owners.
Cloud hosting accounts frequently offer a "pay as you go" approach to bandwidth which includes a fixed rate for each GB of transfer and billing only for the exact amount of data sent or received. This can be compared to the "unlimited" bandwidth plans of many shared Linux and Windows webhosts which allow for unmetered monthly file throughput.
Websites with more than 20-30 simultaneous I/O requests from users continually for more than 90 seconds will usually lead to a website getting temporarily "slashdotted" or taken offline on shared hosting due to the data transfer spikes. Since most shared hosting plans cannot operate without this feature, WordPress site owners who need to manage large traffic spikes are required to implement either a VPS/dedicated server solution with increased hardware resources or an elastic cloud hosting account that can scale automatically to manage the peak user traffic activity.
Installing WordPress largely depends on the provided system resources available to manage the web server and the experience of the administrator. In practice, WordPress can be installed either manually or through "one click" installers like Softaculous and Fantastico. cPanel users can access the MySQL Database tools, File Manager, FTP, and other utilities to install WordPress manually. Softaculous and Fantastico simplify the process by creating a MySQL database automatically and uploading the core WordPress release files to the server.
In order to manually install WordPress:
- Download the latest WordPress CMS release files.
- Upload the zip file via FTP to the web server root folder for the domain.
- Unpack the files using File Manager or the command line.
- Create a new MySQL database & user on the web server.
- Record the MySQL database name, user, & password.
- Open the domain root address in the web browser.
- Run the auto-installation script, entering the required information.
- Choose the admin account name & email address.
- Configure the site name, slogan, logo, & other settings.
cPanel users can navigate to Softaculous or Fantastico and skip the database creation steps above, entering the required administration information in a single installation screen. More advanced users can import an entire WordPress database into phpMyAdmin or use the command line & WP-CLI to manage new website installations.
After WordPress has been installed, a new website can be constructed by activating themes, plugins, and widgets to add new design. Use the WP Admin section to create new content, manage pages, create menus, or embed widgets in sidebars. WordPress offers almost unlimited flexibility in expanding for social networking, ecommerce, & blog publishing.
Managed WordPress Hosting
What Is a Managed WordPress Hosting?
Managed WordPress web hosting comes in a number of varieties and typically includes an optimized web server software environment with advanced page caching functionality and a suite of utilities. Some web hosting companies simply offer cPanel, Softaculous, and a LAMP environment, which is all many people need to install and manage a single-user WordPress site. Others offer a custom development subdomain for testing and staging WordPress websites as well as the WP-CLI command line utility tool. The most advanced managed WordPress hosting plans, from specialists like Bluehost, DreamHost, WPengine, and others include custom platform creation which offer Nginx servers, Varnish Cache integration, with additional forms of advanced caching like Memcached, OPcache, & APC pre-installed and optimally configured on premium hardware. Many of the specialist WordPress hosts also have a custom WP distribution or plugin developed for proprietary platform integration.
“Many times, web hosting companies are also offering premium hardware, low density servers, PHP 7, HHVM, free SSD storage upgrades, and other new features”
The advantage of managed WordPress web hosting plans is that they include the Varnish Cache & Nginx server configurations used to scale the largest websites in the world to support hundreds of millions of users at an affordable cost to retail clients on the PaaS product model. Where advances in "big data," enterprise data centers, and devops support for the largest media websites in the world lead to best practices with WordPress (as in Bluehost, DreamHost, WPengine, etc.), these companies then make the same software stack configurations available to small business owners and independent publishers under managed WordPress web hosting plans. Many times, web hosting companies are also offering premium hardware, low density servers, PHP 7, HHVM, free SSD storage upgrades, and other new features on their managed WordPress plans with HTTP/2, SPDY, CloudFlare, RailGun, etc. Since it can be quite expensive for businesses to hire experienced WordPress developers and systems administrators to build custom Nginx & Varnish Cache solutions, managed WordPress web hosting plans can be a good upgrade for site owners looking for better website performance and pageload speeds but who do not want to invest too much in custom web development solutions.
Why Do You Need Managed Hosting?
Managed WordPress web hosting plans offer enterprise-level solutions to website owners that make the latest innovations in cloud hosting, data center operations, and web server administration available under affordable costs to the retail consumer market through PaaS/IaaS product models. These plans synthesize the best practices for WordPress hosting based on industry support requirements and then simplify the required integration of the stack software & WP plugins to offer a low cost hosting product optimized for WordPress CMS sites.
There are significant performance gains on individual pageload speed and overall web server operations that can be found by hosting WordPress on Nginx web servers over Apache, which can be further compounded through multi-layered caching using Varnish Cache, Memcached, HHVM, APC, OPcache, etc. Managed WordPress web hosting plans present a completely integrated platform with premium hardware, load balancing on network traffic, reverse proxy server software, and multi-level caching for best performance of the CMS under scale. It often makes sense for small businesses and independent publishers to save the time, effort, cost, and experimentation required for custom solutions by buying the complete PaaS product from a managed WordPress hosting vendor, often at a price only slightly higher than standard shared Linux hosting with cPanel.
Where managed WordPress web hosting can make another strong impact is in enterprise-level support for high traffic websites and mobile applications. Outsourcing IT operations to the cloud can save money for businesses vs. the purchase and local expense of the hardware, as well as the cost of the in-house staff to manage the data center 24/7
Data security is important to every business, where professional data center managers at web hosting companies often can outperform through daily specialization in operations. Managed WordPress hosting platforms have been developed by the same people who are programming for the WordPress core codebase and who are supporting production operations for enterprise websites that need to scale to support over 100 million users per month at the highest levels of publication. The managed WordPress plans offered by webhosts and specialist agencies are tested under strain with client sites at these levels of web traffic. The same stack technologies, focused primarily on multi-level caching and Nginx, are then made available to anyone to improve their WordPress site operations at an affordable cost of entry. Managed WordPress plans outperform shared hosting plans by a wide margin and can be scaled with system resources like a VPS account to match the expected traffic requirements of a production website.
“The managed WordPress plans offered by webhosts and specialist agencies are tested under strain with client sites at these levels of web traffic”
Some managed WordPress web hosting services also offer elastic cloud scalability that is available under PaaS/IaaS structures. Websites and mobile applications at this level of popularity and service use can consider the amount of money saved by using a managed WordPress service vs. building a custom hosting solution on VPS, dedicated, or elastic server hardware independently. When compared with the cost of employing qualified and experienced systems administrators to build out and maintain a complex WordPress site with Nginx & Varnish Cache integration, managed hosting platforms can save thousands of dollars for many website owners by offering these stack snapshots pre-configured. The integration of a development subdomain for testing and staging site changes can be another benefit of a specialist WordPress hosting plan.
In summary, for enterprise-level web development, cloud hosting, platform management, and advanced multi-layered page caching functionality, look for a managed WordPress hosting plan with built in Varnish Cache & Nginx integration, as well as options for Memcached, PHP 7, HHVM, & CDN support. By taking advantage of the pre-existing experience of some of the most qualified experts in WordPress development, online businesses can save a lot of time, money, trial & error by hosting their production websites on a managed WordPress cloud plan.
|RAM||~350 MB||1-2 GB||2-32 GB|
|Storage||1 GB||Unlimited||50 GB to 1 TB|
|Simultaneous I/O Processes||~20||~200||200-10,000|
|Number of Domains||-||Variable||Unlimited|
|Bandwidth||~10 GB||Unlimited||1 TB+|
|Database Support||MySQL||MySQL/PostgreSQL & MSSQL||Any|
|Number of Databases||1||Variable||Unlimited|
|Average Monthly Cost||-||$3 - $15||$20 - $65|
|Platform Advantages||Zero Cost to Launch||Flexible, Cheap, & Easy-to-Use for Multiple Domains||Advanced Web Server Customization|
|RAM||2-16 GB||2-32 GB||2-16 GB||16-64 GB|
|Storage||20 GB to 350 GB||50 GB to 1.5 TB||10 GB to 500 GB||1 TB to 15 TB|
|Simultaneous I/O Processes||200-1,000||200-10,000||200-1,000||10,000+|
|Number of Domains||Variable||Unlimited||Variable||1|
|Bandwidth||500 GB+||1.5 TB+||500 GB+||15 TB+|
|Number of Databases||Variable||Unlimited||Variable||Variable|
|Average Monthly Cost||$7.95 - $29.95||$99 - $350||$7.95 - $29.95||$1,500|
|Platform Advantages||Platform Security & Utilities||Scale for Web Traffic||Better CMS Performance Speeds||Enterprise Level Support|
Pros And Cons Of Managed WordPress Hosting
In looking at the pros and cons of managed WordPress hosting, there is a fundamental question of plan cost vs. number of features provided which is most determinant, while the issue of DIY or "do it yourself" vs. a managed, pre-packaged approach can be viewed as more related to personal user preferences and project requirements.
Some entry level managed WordPress hosting plans can be 10x the cost of a similar shared Linux hosting plan with cPanel. The small business owner has different standards of evaluation and needs for use than the enterprise website administrator or
Some website owners are just looking for a little better performance or pagespeed gains over shared hosting, while others need to support start-up websites and enterprise mobile apps with tens of thousands of simultaneous users or more. Managed WordPress hosting plans can save money for some businesses when compared to a freelance web developer or contract firms, while for established businesses the cost savings is compared to in-house IT staff, hardware resources, required software licenses, etc.
Web developers and systems administrators need to do a detailed cost analysis of managed WordPress hosting plans to see where the limitations of an account conflict with project requirements. For example, some managed platforms might limit the third-party modules that can be installed with WordPress. Others may not be compatible with required legacy app standards like programming language versions that need to be preserved for custom code in containers.
"Often times, the same money spent on building a custom web server environment for a high traffic website can lead to even better perfomance and faster speeds than a commercial, pre-installed cloud platform plan"
Some managed WordPress services may over-promise and under-deliver, leaving businesses with an even worse overall service than a well maintained shared hosting account or VPS environment. The limitations to the ability to customize a WordPress installation or web server environment is a major issue to consider when evaluating a managed WordPress plan vs. a VPS/dedicated hardware resource at the same price. Automated backups and security upgrades for installed stack software is a major advantage of managed cloud hosting plans, but business owners need to put the time into understanding which plans have the development tools and platform integration that they are looking to implement for the website in order to compare the estimated cost savings in advance.
The same issues apply to high traffic websites when evaluating managed WordPress hosting plans. The PaaS/IaaS prices need to be compared to the cost of a development team to install and maintain a similar system on independent hardware, like a custom VPS, cloud server, or dedicated hosting environment. Often times, the same money spent on building a custom web server environment for a high traffic website can lead to even better performance and faster speeds than a commercial, pre-installed cloud platform plan because of the greater ability to customize the stack and individual server settings. Similarly, for many websites it may simply be a matter of bulk hardware resources at wholesale prices that are most attractive. By offering a pre-rolled, generic cloud solution with one-click installs, subdomain staging environments, and a proprietary AMP for WordPress sites, some managed WordPress hosting plans can actually underperform a well-produced solution with other resources and lead to wasted time in site transfers, errors, or downtime.
In an industry evolving as quickly as cloud web hosting, the same companies providing superior srvice with the greatest buzz may be underperforming three years later, under different corporate management and control, making hardware lock-in less attractive when more platform innovation is taking plase elsewhere.
In summary, managed WordPress web hosting plans promise and deliver much improved performance for CMS websites over shared hosting plans for a wide variety of reasons. These plans normally have greater system resource allocation (RAM, CPU cores, I/O processes) than shared hosting, including SSD storage options and faster hardware. Secondly, the web hosting companies are implementing platform innovation through custom stack environments made available with managed WordPress plans which include software utilities not found on other hosting accounts. Third, managed WordPress hosting plans offer pre-configured Nginx, Varnish Cache, Memcached, HHVM, OPcache, APC, etc. integration reflective of best-practices in industry for high traffic web hosting. Many small business website owners do not have the resources to develop these solutions independently, making them a good deal. Many enterprise website owners find that the expertise and platform optimization behind managed WordPress hosting plans outperform their own custom-coded solutions at a lower overall cost. Both sectors benefit from the PaaS/IaaS business model by getting the access to advanced solutions, expert staff, and superior web hosting services in site operations.
WordPress VIP Hosting
WordPress VIP hosting is a service offered by Automattic, the software development company founded by Matt Mullenweg which leads the evolution of WordPress core and associated ecosystem plugins. Automattic offers free website hosting on WordPress.com while governing the stewardship of the CMS codebase via WordPress.org. The WordPress VIP service is targeted to enterprise corporations who are looking for a managed cloud hosting solution. WordPress VIP hosting is a SaaS product from Automattic that allows the most popular websites to scale and support any level of web traffic from the same data center and technicians that build the WordPress CMS. Automattic is following the business model of offering enterprise consulting services and advanced web development support for WordPress on the VIP & VIP GO platforms.
Many of the WordPress VIP clients operate websites with 100 million page views per month or more
WordPress VIP clients include Time, NBC, UPS, Dow Jones, TechCrunch, NASA, and many other Fortune 500 corporations. Automattic does not list a fixed price for the service but encourages businesses to contact the company personally for consulting on providing web hosting and IaaS services for enterprise solutions. Many of the WordPress VIP clients operate websites with 100 million page views per month or more. Automattic has cloud hosting and self-hosted solutions available for companies with large scale web operations based on WordPress that can be extremely affordable when compared to in-house costs.
The WordPress VIP service can be recommended for enterprise corporations, major media publications, news agencies, government websites, large university websites, etc. Most small businesses and independent publishers will find more cost-effective solutions with other companies. IT managers at large corporations can recommend Automattic as service providers with the fact that they are not only managing the continual development of the world's most popular CMS but also the data center, ecommerce, & technical support requirements of many Fortune 500 groups.
WPengine competes with the WordPress VIP service for many of the same clients in enterprise and offers similar cloud platform hosting services based around scaling WordPress to support the most demanding requirements in web/mobile application deployment. WPengine is independent from Automattic and maintains a proprietary codebase for their cloud hosting platform solutions based on the inter-combination of multiple forms of page caching, file compression, and load balancing. WPengine was one of the first companies to offer a pre-rolled PaaS web hosting solution based on a Varnish Cache and Nginx stack popularly for WordPress, scaling to become one of the most hyped start-up companies in the sector.
The ability of Nginx and Varnish Cache to provide exceptional WordPress perfomance at scale initially gave many Fortune 500 companies reason to switch to the WPengine service. Recently, however, WPEngine has been outpaced as other majors in the web hosting sector introduce their own managed WordPress platforms as competition.
Ownership and management changes at WPengine has led to more customers reporting problems with the service. Wider industry adoption of the cloud hosting techniques WPengine pioneered for superior WordPress performance using Nginx & Varnish Cache has made these techniques more common as a hosting standard in production environments.
WPengine has retail web hosting plans available for WordPress website owners that are about 10x more expensive than a comparable shared Linux web hosting account at the entry level, while their elastic server solutions are also more costly than other IT vendor hardware for enterprise support. WPengine's main success was in popularizing the multilayered caching approach to WordPress web hosting based on the Nginx & Varnish Cache + elastic cloud combination that is now becoming an industry standard.
Since there is no way of WPengine to preserve their marketshare except through continued exceptional perfomance and new innovations, the unique benefits of the service have since spread to become equally fundamental to other competing
Nevertheless, the complexity of operating web/mobile apps at scale means that there are still only a few other companies in the sector offering comparable managed WordPress plans with a pre-installed Nginx and Varnish Cache integration. However, because of the high cost of the WordPress VIP & WPengine cloud hosting services, most small business owners are able to operate a high performance VPS solution for WordPress CMS websites with a custom server software stack environment at a cheaper cost basis. Both WordPress VIP and WPengine remain cutting edge cloud hosting platforms that can be a huge source of cost savings for enterprise websites for WordPress solutions at scale.