As a digital agency, we find ourselves setting up servers for clients on occasion, and through doing that we have explored multiple approaches to setting up and managing WordPress websites.
In this article, I would like to share some of the learnings we have made in this journey and share some of the different tools we have discovered so you may do your own research and hopefully find a solution for your sites.
Self-hosting or managed solution?
There are a lot of options when it comes to setting up WordPress, from using a managed WordPress hosting provider to installing on your own server.
If you are an agency with in-house developers, you may want to consider installing WordPress on your own server. This will give you complete control over your environment and allow for more customization. If you are hosting several client websites, you might want to consider some sort of website control panel solution where you can manage several sites from one dashboard.
If you are not an agency and do not have developers, you may want to consider using a managed WordPress hosting option provider. Managed WordPress hosting services take care of your website's safety, by performing automatic updates, automatic backups, malware detection, security patches, caching, and more. In short, they have additional features and typically handle all the technical aspects of running a WordPress website so you don’t have to worry about it.
Security and available customer support
There are a few things to consider when choosing a managed WordPress hosting provider. One of the most important factors is how well they handle security. Another factor to consider is the speed of their servers. You also want to make sure that the provider offers good customer support in case you run into any issues.
Technical features to look out for
Depending on how technical you are and what needs you have you might want to make yourself a list of requirements to evaluate the different solutions on before making your final decisions. This list is not exhaustive but something you can use as a foundation for evaluation.
Does the solution…
- Keep your server up-to-date
- Have built-in firewall to protect against requests on ports other than 80 and 443
- Provide a way to view log files for debugging
- Give alerts when the server capacity is reaching certain levels
- Provide you with rest API so you can setup/manage WordPress apps
- Provide you with WP CLI feature so you can update plugins and do database do plugin updates and database changes directly via SSH
- Allow you to backup your database regularly
- Provide you with an easy way to restore a backup
- Provide white-labeling options so you can remove all branding from
- Allow you to spin up more than one site per server
- Give you the option to create a staging site and later push changes into your production site
- Have a global CDN (Content Delivery Network) that you can use to serve static files
- Cache your pages and database queries
- Be able to handle large files (files over 2Mb) without breaking
- Option to install SSL on the server
- Option to use a custom domain name
- Option to connect with Cloudflare for added security
- Offer 24/7 support
- Do they actually answer
- When they answer do they answer with a series of questions to scare you away from using their support or do they ask questions to understand and take action on your problems.
If you expect to ask for help in the future, I would recommend testing their chat or email response time before your final decision. Ask them some difficult questions, some technical ones, and see how long it takes for them to answer. Of course, when you reach out to the sales department you will see response times different from real-life scenarios. So you could also try and signup with a trial or a lower plan for a month and test out how they interact with you.
Wow, 3S (Server, Site, Support) that just happened.
With that out of the way, here is a little of different providers for you to research and explore, enjoy.
Management for self-hosted server with graphical user interface
Using maintained software to handle your own server can be a great way to both save costs compared to a fully managed solution while still getting some of the cool features from a managed solution. These solutions allow you to connect your own server or one from a cloud provider of your choice and then they add a layer of convenient features on top, for example, daily backups, automatic server updates, site management, and many others.
These solutions all offer a graphical user interface (GUI) which makes managing your server easy even if you are not a DevOps person yourself.
In no particular order:
I have personally used ServerPilot for 5+ years without a single issue. It is fast, reliable, and easy to use.
Management for self-hosted server with a command-line interface (CLI)
If you don't need a graphical interface to manage your WordPress sites, you may opt for a more lightweight setup that simply does the advanced stuff under the hood while you still execute the commands from the command line.
I have not tested any of these myself, so like with any solution, do your own research before diving in.
Self-hosting both management dashboard and managed sites
If you like to both control your server, the apps on it, and the control panel you are using to manage them, you might opt for a solution with a self-hosted control panel.
I have had a hard time finding solutions that would allow for self-hosting, particularly open-source ones.
Managed WordPress Hosting
Sometimes if you have a standalone site or a client who wants to handle things on their own but does not have the technical team in-house it makes very good sense to use a managed solution where both the control panel and the server itself are managed entirely by the provider. Depending on a hosting plan, these solutions often come packed with professional features such as a staging environment and log viewer.
I have personally tried out Kinsta and WP Engine with different clients. I have to say that the Kinsta user interface seems a little faster (which puts a smile on my face).
Here is a shortlist of Managed WordPress hosting companies:
Server management panel
If you are looking for a solution that allows you to set up mail accounts email accounts, different one-click app solutions (other than just WordPress), you might consider looking into a more comprehensive server management panel.
These solutions can provide you with a more holistic view of your server and its health. They can also handle tasks such as regular backups, updates, performance, and security monitoring for you.
The upside with this approach is more features, which also turns out to be the downside. Many of these control panels have so many features and settings, that they may require training to even manage unless you are a tech ninja and can decipher it on your own.
In conclusion, there are many different ways to set up and manage WordPress websites. You will need to do your own research to find the best solution for you. Some of the options we have explored include using a managed WordPress hosting provider, installing WordPress on your own server, or using a website control panel.
If you feel like we misrepresented one of the solutions or that we left one out, please don't hesitate to contact us and we would be happy to keep this document up-to-date so other people can benefit from these observations.
Stay tuned for future articles where we will explore more specific topics related to WordPress hosting and management.