Whether you already have a website or wish to create a new one, one of your biggest frustrations is choosing how and where to host that website. Choosing a web hosting provider is hard – plain and simple. There’s seemingly infinite options, pricing tiers, and features (or lack thereof). So how do you choose? I’ve personally moved my own websites around between four different hosting providers and various levels of service at each of those hosting providers. While I love Bluehost as a shared hosting platform, I wanted you to know how to take your website and hosting to the next level using Managed WordPress Hosting from WP Engine!
What is Managed WordPress Hosting?
Not familiar with the term managed hosting? You’ll need a little lesson on how hosting actually works. WordPress hosting typically breaks down into seven technical pieces:
- Networking – This is how my request to see your website gets to the server hosting your website (think TCP/IP, the Internet, and HTTP)!
- Server Hardware – This is the physical computer on which your website or back-end WordPress database runs.
- Operating System – This is the first layer of software running on the server, such as Windows or one of the various forms of Linux.
- Web Server- This is software which accepts and interprets HTTP/HTTPS requests and deliver the pages you’re looking for. This is also the layer of software where hosting platforms such as WP Engine insert various caching platforms and content distribution networks (CDN’s).
- In the case of WordPress, there is also another server – the MySQL Database server. This is the server that holds the actual content and configuration of your WordPress website.
- Development Framework – This software allows the Web Server to interpret the contents of each page in your website. In the case of WordPress, the framework is PHP.
- Website Framework – This is where you would layer your WordPress installation into the web server. This is also the layer where you would include themes, plugins, etc.
- Website Content – This is the verbiage and media you actually include in your website. This is what people are searching for when they go to Google, Yahoo!, Bing, etc.
In a Managed WordPress Hosting relationship, a hosting provider manages any number of the first 6 of those 7 layers I mentioned. However, if you’re paying for management of your hosting environment, I would think you would want ALL SIX. They should be tuning and tweaking the infrastructure, servers, and frameworks to make WordPress as fast as possible. They should be ensuring your WordPress installation is up-to-date, as well as all the components below it. This helps ensure that your site stays up-and-running issue-free, and also helps make sure you’re patched to prevent any security attacks and hacks. The best managed hosting providers will also notify you when they detect your site may have a potential hack or issue, and work with you to resolve it. WP Engine covers all the first 6 layers of hosting that I mentioned above.
For comparison, look at what the other popular managed hosting solutions actually manage:
- Amazon EC2 loosely covers #1 and #2
- A Virtual Private Server covers #1, #2, and #3
- Microsoft Azure and RackSpace CloudSites loosely covers #1 through #5
- Shared Hosting (such as BlueHost, FatCow, GoDaddy, etc) loosely covers #1 through #5 also.
Who should use Managed WordPress Hosting?
A good way to answer this is to ask yourself the following questions:
- Should you use Infrastructure-as-a-Service Providers? Do you know how to use Infrastructure-as-a-Service providers, such as Amazon EC2 (including availability regions, networking, OS installation, etc) or Rackspace? If not, you want managed hosting.
- Should you use a Virtual Private Server to host your own website? Do you understand how to work with a pre-installed version of Linux and know how to configure the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) stack for WordPress hosting? If not, you want managed hosting!
- Should you use Shared Hosting providers? Do you understand how to tweak and tune WordPress for shared hosting providers such as BlueHost (my favorite), Fatcow, etc? Do you know how to maintain WordPress and apply updates to themes, plugins, and the WordPress core? If not, you want managed hosting!
- Do you want to bother locating and hiring an IT Professional to maintain the underpinnings of your website? If you don’t want the hassle of interviewing developers and/or using contractor outsourcing websites like oDesk or elance, you want managed WordPress hosting!
- Do you want to simply focus on the content of your WordPress website? Do you want your website to “just work” and require as little of your time possible so that you can simply focus on creating great content for the Internet at large? If so, you want managed WordPress hosting from WP Engine.
- Is your site slowing down because you’re too big for your Shared hosting account? If you’re noticing performance issues on your shared hosting provider (too much content, too much traffic, etc), and/or your shared provider is recommending you upgrade to a VPS, it’s time to seriously consider managed WordPress Hosting at WP Engine.
As an aside, let me clue you in as to how much “maintenance” there can be in a “managed” hosting environment outside of WP Engine! A client of mine hosts his website on RackSpace CloudSites. I’ve spent multiple hours tweaking and tuning the website according to “RackSpace recommendations,” including htaccess settings, caching plugins, etc. I also spend anywhere from 10 minutes to up to 2 hours per month (per website) performing backups and upgrades on the WordPress core and various plugins. And don’t forget that I bill all of that time back to my client, all because RackSpace doesn’t manage the WordPress install for him as part of the exorbitant fee (relative to WP Engine) they charge for “Managed” hosting through CloudSites.
SIDENOTE: WPEngine also offers an affiliate program! Sign up for the WP Engine affiliate program and receive a minimum of $150 per referral! Now you can earn money when you refer friends, coworkers, clients, and relatives to WPEngine also!
When can I change to Managed WordPress Hosting?
Anytime! It is easiest to start a *brand new* website on Managed WordPress Hosting, but all is not lost if you’re currently on some other hosting platform and need to migrate. The basic process for migrating a pre-existing website to WP Engine includes:
- Update your current WordPress install and plugins to the latest version. This applies whether you are on shared hosting or some type of VPS.
- Export your Database and Import it into WP Engine. This brings over your contents and configuration.
- Transfer your wp-content folder to WP Engine. This brings over your media, themes, and plugins.
- Make any necessary adjustments. Make any necessary changes to your themes and plugins. (WP Engine disallows some plugins that adversely affect your hosting experience, such as caching plugins which unnecessarily duplicate functionality they provide out-of-the-box!)
- Update your DNS. Tell the Internet where to find your new, faster WordPress install!!!
Fortunately, if you have to migrate from another hosting provider, WP Engine has support documentation full of helpful content regarding migrations. Plus, if you’re still having trouble, you can contact their friendly support staff!
Stay tuned as I am currently writing the next installment of “The W’s of Managed WordPress Hosting @ WP Engine (Where, How, and Why).” (Is ‘how’ a ‘w’? It is to me!) I’m a fan of BlueHost for shared hosting, but sometimes shared hosting isn’t worth the overhead in the maintenance and tweaking required to keep things running. Managed WordPress hosting by WP Engine gets you speed, reliability, and effortless usage. I highly recommend them if you want your site completely managed on a platform built to handle the worst the Internet can throw at it.
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