Your WordPress hosting environment is both the foundation and limiting factor of your online presence. You should choose it very, very carefully because your business rises and falls with it
You should be looking for reliable hosting, where you can test all your changes before going live. If something goes wrong, you need to be able to restore your website in one click. It should be fast and offer you all the tools to make it even faster. There also should be skilled support, in case a problem arises (and this happens more often than you would like it to, trust me).
Here are my recommended business criteria, for measuring your hosting:
Uptime – you want your website to be up and running close to 100% of the time
Restorability – if something happens to your website, you need to get it back and running with just a few clicks
Proper staging environment setup – where you can test every change before going live
Technological advantage – so you can utilize various server-side resources to gain a competitive advantage by making your website faster and more secure
Speed – the hosting should be fast
Price – it should not be too cheap, but not very expensive either.
Scalability – the more users you have, the more resources you need.
Reliability – the support should be good and the company should be nice.
Let me walk you through the challenges associated with hosting providers, that you’ll face when managing your own website.
Creating your WordPress website
This is the very first step you make, right? Firstly, you need to install WordPress itself. Many hosts offer 1 click WP Install, but there are plenty of guides about “how to install WP”. Even if you are a beginner, then you should be able to install it within an hour. So “1 click WordPress install” should not be a significant criterion for you.
After that, you need to upload your WordPress theme and probably upload some WP plugins. More often than not, this is done via FTP clients. WordPress itself has an interface for it, but the latest plugins and themes can be really big in terms of size and it might be better to upload them via FTP.
Your WordPress hosting provider needs to be fast, otherwise the FTP upload might take hours instead of seconds. The transfer can also be interrupted in the middle, so you’ll need to run the operation again and again. And trust me, there is nothing more annoying than having to wait half an hour to upload a WP theme. Yes, this happens with poor hosts.
Configuring the WordPress Theme and Plugins
In all probability, you won’t be personally making many changes in the code itself. You’ll be just configuring your WP Theme and various plugins. Configuring means that you’ll go into your admin panel, change some values, and hit the save button. After the save, the content is sent to your WordPress hosting provider and it has to be processed and saved into the MySQL database.
If your WordPress site is slow, every single one save of the website can take 10, 20, or even 30 seconds. Every time I work on a client site where this happens, I’m literally dying inside. To adjust your site, you’ll need to save the admin options hundreds of times, or thousands of times. When one save will take you 10 seconds instead of 3, it’s 7 seconds extra per save. Multiply it by 1 thousand and it’s 2 wasted hours just on the save delays. Multiply those 2 hours by your hourly rate and all of a sudden it does not make sense to get anything other than a fast and reliable server.
Updating the WordPress, Themes, and Plugins
New versions of WP, themes, and plugins are periodically released. Every single site build is unique and there are basically unlimited amounts of possible interactions between the components. When you hit the update button, there is a real chance that it will screw up your website and it will not work, until someone like me will fix it for you for a few hundred dollars. If you do not update anything, sooner or later, your website will crash anyway. But you can function for a few months on this technological debt.
To avoid a complete breakdown of your website and business, you need to have a proper 1-click staging environment. You’ll create an identical copy of your website build with just 1 click. Then you’ll update your WordPress, theme, and plugins. If something breaks and puts your website down, then guess what? – you are totally cool, because it happened on the staging. You then can play with the site for a while, trying to figure out things on your own. There is a good chance that you’ll be able to identify the problematic plugin or theme. Or you can hire me and we will figure this out together. But there will be no pressure because your main WordPress site will be up, running and bringing you profit. Odds are, that since your job won’t be urgent, you’ll be able to get a better price.
Remember, the staging feature has to really be a “1-click”. If there is anything more required from your side, then it’s not a good sign.
Backing up your WordPress site and restoring it in case of any problems
Problems happen all the time. You can accidentally delete half of your database. Your site could get hacked and infected with malware. Your WordPress site will auto-update some plugins or themes and it will break your site.
You need to be prepared for a disaster. Your hosting definitely needs to do snapshots of your site every single day. 14 days backward is the golden standard. You need to be able to restore your site from the backup by 1 click. I can’t stress this enough – your website is your money earning asset. If you have a 1 click backup, then when you screw something up, you remain cool, hit the “restore from backup”, wait a few minutes and then you are up and running.
Just a small reminder – you might think that you are safe with WordPress backup plugins, like UpDraft, Backup Buddy, and others. You need a fully functional WordPress site to run the plugins. Bear with me – when do you need to restore from backup the most? When your WordPress site is corrupted and not working. And in this case, most of the backup plugins won’t be that useful, because they need a working WordPress site to run. I can make it work and you can hire me, but it will cost you a few hundred dollars and a tough day. There are some workarounds, but it’s much easier to find a WordPress hosting provider which supports 1 click backup and restore.
There are also scenarios when you need to perform an operation on your website, which has the potential to screw things up. For example, this might be migrating your site to HTTPS or switching a database version. In this case, it’s very handy to have the 1-click backup and restore tool. I love it – because when I’m doing anything risky for my clients, I know that if something goes wrong, I will not jeopardize the client’s business. It also means that I do not have to reserve the whole day and afternoon for correcting the potential issues. And this translates to smaller costs when you hire me as a WordPress developer.
You should also pay attention to backup storage on your hosting. Most hosts offer daily backup for the last 10 days. But what happens when your site has been broken for 10+ days without you noticing? If that happens, the last working backup is lost. I really suggest talking to your hosting representative about this and put some kind of a plan in place so this does not happen to you.
Scaling up your WordPress site and being ready for traffic spikes
Traffic spike should be a word you feel good about. It means that your business is hot and plenty of users are visiting your site simultaneously. You shouldn’t even consider your WordPress hosting as a limiting factor here. Your WordPress hosting provider should automatically scale your resources to handle the traffic spike, and of course bill you more for it. Otherwise, you should be experiencing site loading problems or even timeouts. And this will cost you plenty of money. This should be done in the background, without any action required (maybe you should grant permission or cap the bill).
Usually, hosting companies are renting computing power from cloud platforms, like AWS. This way, they can dynamically scale their WordPress operation, if they experience some kind of traffic spike.
Tools for optimizing your WordPress site speed
The faster your site, the better revenue you can expect from it, period. There are various tools, which help you make your WordPress site faster and most of them have to be supported by the hosting provider.
New Relic – complete application profiler, which allows you to see under the hood. The usual scenario is that you are running a successful WooCommerce store with tens of plugins. Or a successful niche WordPress site, with a huge amount of plugins as well. Your site is slow and you have no clue why.
Then you contact me for a WordPress speed optimization, I look at your site and guess what, I also have no clue, what might be wrong. I install a New Relic agent and gather some data about your WordPress install. I can then see the specific bottleneck. I’m able to identify the plugin and even the function. This is a game-changer in terms of WordPress speed optimization.
MariaDB – it’s a fork of MySQL database, which is well-known to be faster than MySQL. Just by moving to this database engine, you are able to boost up your MySQL performance by tens of percent. This will help you to prevent timeouts, which makes your site inaccessible.
Redis or Memcached – object cache. This software runs as a server program and it allows you to store information to the memory. Gathering this info is lightfast. The primary purpose is to cache SQL queries and I’ve seen a 50% reduction of the SQL execution time by properly configuring those extensions.
Varnish – reverse proxy cache. It stores the HTML content of your website, so it does not have to be rendered every time. You then can serve the content to your users much faster. I’m talking about 300ms – 700ms to serve the content from cache (based on the distance from the server) vs 1.5 – 5 seconds to render the site from scratch. You’ll still need to configure the Varnish with your WordPress caching plugin.
ElasticSearch – this technology is used primarily for huge WooCommerce shops. It allows you to bypass the MySQL full-text search, which is, on those occasions, very slow. By extending your WordPress setup with the ElasticSearch, you can also find strings, which are not exactly matching your words but are very close. For example, if you look for “undrewear” instead of “underwear”, your standard WordPress search won’t find anything. But with ElasticSearch integrated and properly configured, it will also find products, which have “underwear” within.
CDN support – it works like this – your assets (images, JS, and CSS files) are automatically copied to dozens of little CDN edge location servers across the globe. They allow you to serve content from locations that are geographically closer to your (global) visitors, compared to your main server which is always in the same spot on the map. The HTML of your site is rendered and then a search and replace function is performed on the output. This function replaces the string https://yoursite.com/image.jpg with https://europe.yourcdn.com/yoursite.com/image.jpg and prompts the main server to copy the image.jpg file to the edge location that is closest to the visitor. That copied file then remains there and is ready to be served to any future visits from the same geographical area
Enough MySQL and PHP Workers – the workers are communicating with your database, or executing your PHP scripts. If the number of workers is relatively small then your site can start timing out if all workers are busy serving previous visitors (trying to serve them with unoptimized content).
Datacenter being close to your visitors – the closer the primary datacenter is to your visitors, the faster response time you’ll get. Your primary aim here is to target approx 300 – 500ms. If your primary audience is from Europe, then it makes sense to choose a data center in Europe. If the audience is located in the USA, then the most value you would get is from a data center from the USA.
Tools for easily administering your WordPress site
These things are very nice to have. You’ll probably not use them most of the time, but I’ll be using them. So when you hire me, I can work faster and this translates to a nicer price for you.
PHPMyAdmin – graphic user interface, which allows you to inspect the WordPress SQL database. My guess is, that this is the most used tool when it comes to WordPress sites.
SSH access – this is a command-line interface. I can connect to the server and perform various operations. Like global find across all files (useful in finding malware) on your WordPress install. Download a local copy of your SQL database. Upload your SQL database. There are plenty of other use cases, which will save me a lot of time
WP CLI – WordPress command-line interface – it allows me to interact with your WordPress installation through the SSH command line. I can, for example, de-activate all plugins and start activating them one-by-one, to figure out which one is breaking the front-end of your site.
Cron job scheduler – it gives you the ability to execute a PHP script periodically, for example, every hour. WordPress itself has a “cron-job” imitation, which allows you to schedule some actions within a time interval. Due to the nature of PHP scripts, the WP Cron job has to run every time your visitor visits a website. Even though there are some mechanisms, minimizing the impact, it definitely makes your site slower and it’s one of the many optimization techniques you can easily utilize. But your server has to support the cron jobs.
Other things to consider when choosing a host
How old and big is your WordPress hosting provider – it should be established. I would not recommend going for anyone younger than 3 years. They can’t catch all the small mistakes (even when Elon Musk would own it) and you’ll be their tester.
How honest is the hosting – there is a popular hosting strategy to stuff as many websites as possible onto one server. Many websites are competing for the same resources. When one website is poorly written (quite common), then it consumes a lot of resources. Your WordPress website will start timing out and there is not much you can do about it. The timeouts will not have any pattern and will not be under your control.
How reputable is the hosting provider – a few years back, I’ve hosted all my sites at a good family host called “a small orange”. They were purchased by the infamous “EIG” group (most of the hosts they acquire experience a drop in quality) . Then, in December 2016, they experienced a major outage of servers. It was 3 weeks after I’d released a huge WordPress theme and I really needed the site to be up. Otherwise, it would lose all sales and rankings at ThemeForest and 10,000 development hours would be wasted. Luckily, because I’m a WordPress developer, I was able to migrate the site to a different hosting provider. But there were people whose sites were down for weeks and they did not have access to the backups. So it basically ruined their business.
What you should take away from this article
With reasonable probability, your website will be facing various risks, which have the potential to completely kill your business. By choosing a proper hosting environment, you can basically eliminate most of the risks and mitigate all of them for no extra cost.
Which hosting provider should you choose?
My recommendations are based on work with thousands of clients. I have 2 aces in my pocket, which both support all the features.
CloudWays – in my opinion, simply the best hosting you can run into. I love them. I host all my sites there. They offer great quality for an excellent price. Their support is great. You’ll usually experience approx 50% speed up just by migrating your site here. I’ve worked on a few WooCommerce shops with $100k+ monthly revenue and a load of visitors. They all have been hosted on CloudWays and they all have been paying reasonable prices.
If you are going for CloudWays, please consider signing up through my affiliate link: (https://www.cloudways.com/en/?id=508912). As I’ve stated above, I’m personally hosting all my sites there, so I stand by this hosting. I’m convinced that for most users, there is no better option on the market right now.
Kinsta – great alternative to CloudWays. It’s significantly more expensive, but they offer high class support and they have a great backend environment. It’s a full-service thing, where you do not have to care about anything else, but you’ll pay a premium price. If you have very little experience with IT, you want to run your business and basically do not care about anything else, then it’s a great choice for you.
If you are going for the Kinsta, please consider signing up through my affiliate link: (https://kinsta.com/?kaid=VZLCVVZOEOMQ). Even though I’m with a different hosting provider, I consider Kinsta to be excellent for certain audiences.
Relocation package – if you would like a consult for your specific case, let me know and we can tailor the solution for you. Post a preferred project for me on Codeable and I would be more than happy to assist you.