With WordPress now powering over 31,3% of the web, its days of being regarded as a niche blogging solution are well and truly over.
But while the platform itself has made quantum leaps in reliability, usability and power on both the back and front end over the years, the question of hosting has remained a potentially confusing one for site owners not blessed with a background in system administration. The last five years have a seen an emergent wave of hosting providers offering managed solutions targeted specifically at WordPress, each one promising to lift the hosting burden from already over-taxed site owners.
In this post we’ll explore why managed hosting could be a good fit for your business and run the rule over five of the leading providers.
Please note: We do recommend BlueHost and WPEngine and receive a small commission from both of them if you signup from our page. However our recommendation is purely based off their high level of service and included features.
Before we get going though, let’s briefly recap the standard set of hosting options site owners are usually presented with.
A Brief Overview of Standard Hosting Options
WordPress site owners have traditionally been faced with three basic options in terms of managing their own hosting. We’ll look at them in ascending order of complexity.
1. Shared Hosting
Shared hosting is often the first port of call for those new to the hosting game. With offers as low as $2.99 per month, it’s a tempting option if you’re on a strict budget.
As with anything else in life however, you get what you pay for. By its nature, shared hosting means that your site will be sharing server resources with hundreds – if not thousands – of other sites. Furthermore, you will be severely limited in terms of the level of server optimization possible.
VPS stands for Virtual Private Server, a virtualized slice of a larger machine that you can treat as your own server. This option is typically the next step up, once your site has outgrown the limitations of shared hosting.
On a VPS setup you will generally be free to install your own operating system and software on the virtual machine and tweak its settings to your specific requirements.
The potential gains in terms of power and configurability are offset by the degree of technical expertise you’ll have to bring to the table in terms of general IT and system administration knowledge.
3. Dedicated Server
If your site is heading into truly high-traffic territory, you may be tempted to rent or buy your own dedicated machine or network of machines. This will give you access to bare-metal servers that are entirely under your own control.
If you have dedicated system administration resources available, this gives you the maximum amount of power and flexibility at potentially the lowest cost.
Why You Don’t Want to Manage Your Own Hosting
Just as there are many excellent reasons for using WordPress as a base for your site rather than building your own CMS, there are a number of solid reasons for having somebody besides yourself managing your site hosting. Let’s take a quick trip through the more obvious ones.
A constant question facing business owners – particularly in the startup phase – is where their time is most valuably spent. Is it really worth your while taking two days to configure an email server, for example, when you or your colleagues could be out closing leads?
Depending on your skill set, experience and available resources, even the simplest of hosting setups can chew up a considerable amount of time in terms of management.
The minute you move beyond shared hosting, you will need to start spending potentially significant money on hosting. This could be in the form of the hosting itself, the type of paid expertise you’ll need to manage it, or both.
The majority of the services we mention below start at around the $25 per month mark for basic packages. This is slightly over the median hourly rate of a full-time system administrator (though low compared to freelance rates).
If you think setting up and administering your WordPress server will take more than one hour a month, managed hosting is probably well worth your while exploring as an option.
Following on from the previous point, if you’re responsible for managing your own hosting, you are going to have to hire someone somewhere down the line.
This could be a freelancer or somebody in-house but, in both scenarios, you are looking at sourcing a skilled professional in a business-critical field in which you are likely not an expert yourself. This, to put it mildly, can be a fraught experience.
Unless you are already an expert system administrator, managing your own hosting is going to require substantially increasing your current level of general IT knowledge and skill.
This applies regardless of whether you are looking to take the task on yourself, or whether you are looking to hire it out. You may simply not have this time to spare.
Distraction / Opportunity Cost
The final point is really a combination of all the previous ones. When hosting goes wrong – and at some stage it inevitably will, no matter how short the outage is – it can quickly devolve into a fractal mess that dominates much of your productive time and energy.
Put simply, if you’re managing your own hosting, every problem is your problem – and potentially a critical one. By using managed hosting you take advantage of the fact that many of the issues that arise as a site develops – particularly relating to scaling – are essentially solved problems that the companies below have already invested considerable time and resources in being set up to seamlessly manage.
In summary, if you’re in a position to adequately address general system administration, backups, scaling and security in-house then, by all means, go for it. Otherwise – and particularly if you are planning a relatively conventional site that you don’t expect to crack the Alexa Top 500 anytime soon – seriously consider giving managed hosting a try.
Let’s move on now to a quick trip through five of the leading contenders in the market.
Founded in 2010 by Jason Cohen specifically to address the needs of the nascent WordPress-only hosting market, WP Engine has quickly grown to be one of the leading providers in the space with 220+ employees and over 20,000 customers.
Packages and Pricing
WP Engine’s plans are tiered in such a way as to graduate you through a series of scenarios, from a small personal site up to a top of the range clustered solution suitable for large Enterprise clients.
Basic pricing is based more or less on traffic across the three initial tiers, while the higher-end options differentiate themselves primarily on the number of WordPress installs supported.
With a product offering at consistently higher price points than some of the options below, WP Engine stake their claims very much on the reliability and security of their server setup and their commitment to in-house innovation.
WP Engine also provide a number of educational resources such as a complementary eBook that outlines the benefits of their managed services to help guide your decision.
Their CEO’s recent speech about the WordPress hosting landscape and its attendant myths is also an interesting overview.
Who It’s for
If your WordPress site is already up and running and profitable, but you are experiencing constant problems with your current hosting provider and looking to migrate, WP Engine is worth serious investigation.
BlueHost will be familiar to many WordPress users as one of the only three hosting companies officially endorsed by WordPress.
Packages and Pricing
Packages are differentiated primarily on the number of active sites that can be managed via the built-in ManageWP plugin.
All packages boast automatic backups, an optimized Nginx/PHP-FPM architecture and integrated ManageWP and W3 Total Cache plugins. The familiar cPanel backend will also be simple to use for those coming from a shared hosting background.
Who It’s for
Users looking to upgrade from a shared hosting environment will be well served by both the familiarity of the back-end and Bluehost’s experience with hosting over one million WordPress installs to date.
Packages and Pricing
Pantheon’s packages are split out along four tiers, differentiated by monthly pageviews.
Who It’s for
Pantheon is a strong contender for those with a development background looking to offload some of the heavy lifting of server administration.
It would be remiss of us not to give the company that started it all a mention.
Packages and Pricing
Though severely stripped down in terms of the amount of customization options on offer, you’ll benefit from a rock-solid set of core features, blazing fast load times and automatic upgrades.
Who It’s for
If you’re looking purely to blog and want minimal involvement with the back end and plugin or theme customization, it is hard to beat the affordability, power and simplicity of this option.
We hope we have helped steer you in the direction of the right managed hosting provider for your needs.
Every site is different, so some of the options above will be substantially better for certain use cases than others. Also, expect this space to get pretty crowded over the next few years as WordPress continues to gain market share as a platform.
If there’s a particular provider you’ve had experience with that you’d like to share, or if there’s a particular part of the hosting conundrum you’re looking for help with, feel free to get in touch in the comments below.
We’d love to hear from you!
The last couple of years have been exciting for our flagship Avada theme. Its elegant mix of responsive design, simple customization options and powerful built-in features have led over 125,000 satisfied customers to make it their WordPress theme of choice.
That powerful combination packs even more of a punch when deployed across a network of sites. In fact, more information on getting Avada up and running using WordPress Multisite is one of the most common topic requests we receive for the blog.
This article tackles that very subject. We’ll take you through the basics of installing and configuring a local WordPress Multisite network and using Avada as the main theme on each of your sites.
Background on WordPress Multisite
Naturally, all of that flexibility and power comes at a cost. The requirements for Multisite in terms of hosting resources and technical knowledge are higher than they would be for a single site setup.
Server side settings will have to be adjusted and DNS configuration is certain to rear its head at some point. It’s also likely that you’ll need to upgrade from shared hosting if your network reaches any kind of significant size.
Further points to consider are the risk of:
Given the potential number of scenarios for matching Multisite to your live setup, we’ll limit ourselves in this article to installing Multisite locally. This is a sensible way of easing into the overall options and taking Avada for a spin in a safe environment.
Let’s get started!
Setting Up Multisite Locally
The benefits of having a local WordPress development environment are legion. We’ve recently taken a deep dive into the subject here on Theme Fusion with detailed guides for how to set them up on both PCs and Macs.
Rather than rehash the basic setups here, we’ll assume you have a single-site WordPress install running locally from the outset on either MAMP or XAMPP. There are a couple of considerations to bear in mind before we get going, mostly to do with the eventual domain structure we will use. Let’s get them out of the way to begin with.
What Type of Domain Structure Are You Going to Use?
Before installing Multisite, we highly recommend taking the time to go through WordPress’ excellent Before You Create a Network page in detail. Depending on the peculiarities of your local setup, there are a number of potential gotchas it can help you avoid.
Multisite allows two basic types of domain structure:
Which one you go for is a matter of preference. Those on shared hosting may experience problems with the subdomain option due to wildcard restrictions. You will also want to consider the SEO implications of the two different approaches. However, from the point of view of WordPress itself, they are essentially the same.
It’s unfortunately outside the scope of this article, but it’s still worth noting that you also have the option of mapping a full domain to either of the options above. Those interested in exploring further should start by looking at the WordPress MU Domain Mapping plugin.
In our example, we’ll be selecting subdomains and installing locally.
A quick look at the Restrictions section of Before You Create a Network shows me I’ll need to create a virtual host to avoid running into problems using either localhost or 127.0.0.1 on my machine.
With that in mind, I’ve set up the following on my local install of MAMP:
If you’re following along, check out either of these tutorials for full instructions on how to set this up on your own machine:
Okay, our domain decision is made. Now we need to do some prep work.
Our first task is double-checking that Pretty Permalinks are enabled on your install. This requires the mod_rewrite module to be enabled in Apache. On MAMP and XAMPP that should be by default. If you run into difficulties here, begin your troubleshooting at WordPress’ Using Permalinks page.
The second task is to deactivate any active plugins you might have on your base install.
With those precautions out of the way, we’re ready to enable Multisite.
Enabling Multisite Functionality
Enabling Multisite is as straightforward as editing one key PHP file.
Simply open up wp-config.php and add the following lines above the text reading /* That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */:
To make sure your change was picked up, refresh the admin screen and look for the Network Setup item in your Tools menu. If it’s visible, the change has registered and Multisite is enabled.
Installing a Network
Now let’s install our network by going to Tools > Network Setup. Here, we’re faced with the domain choice previously mentioned. I’m going for the subdomain option shown in the image below.
You’ll also be required to name your network and enter an email address for the person responsible for administering the entire network.
With all the information entered, click Install.
Local File Changes
All being well, WordPress will now generate some custom code that you need to add to your wp-config.php and .htaccess files. Both these files should be in the root folder of your install. You may need to show hidden files (PC | Mac) to see the .htaccess file.
Find both files, enter the changes and log back into WordPress. You should now be looking at your familiar dashboard, but with one crucial difference in the top left corner – the My Sites tab.
Adding Sites to the Network
Next we need to visit Network Admin > Dashboard to add some new sites to our setup.
Suddenly being able to switch between multiple dashboards may take some getting used to, but you’ll soon get the hang of it.
From here, it’s merely a question of entering our site details. In my case, I have two subdomains to set up so I simply step through the screens twice.
A quick trip to our All Sites overview shows the new sites are added to the network and ready to be viewed.
It’s now time to bring Avada into the picture.
In Multisite, the network administrator is the only user who can install themes and make them available for individual sites. You have two options here; allow a theme for just one site, or enable it for the entire network. In our case, we’ll do the latter with Avada.
Network Enable Avada
Navigate to the Themes > Add New screen and install Avada as you would on a single-site install.
If you now return to the Themes overview you’ll see a new option next to each theme: the Network Enable/Disable link. Enable this for Avada. This will automatically add it as an option for every site on the network.
Activate Avada on Each Site
Now we’ll go into the admin dashboard of an individual site – in my case site1.mymultisite.local – and activate the Avada theme. Begin by selecting the site dashboard from the All Sites list.
After you’ve activated the theme, you’ll be prompted to install the standard Fusion Core, Layer Slider and Slider Revolution plugins. You’ll also be able to load any of Avada’s standard install demos via the familiar theme interface.
In my case, I’ve gone for the Avada Agency Demo to test the install. A quick trip to Visit Site via the top menu and everything appears to be in order. Avada is now officially working in a Multisite environment!
Why You Should Use Avada For Your Multisite
Avada is perfect for multisite environments for several reasons. The Avada demo importer allows you to quickly deploy a professional design to each of the sites in your multisite environment. One click of a button on each site will import the demo of your choice. This is a huge time saver and gives you the perfect jump start on designing your site.
The overall performance of Avada is extremely good and can easily achieve in the 90’s through Google page speed and GT Metrix tests. This is very important for your overall site ranking and for your viewer’s experience when using your website. We recommend using W3 Total Cache to optimize your site. Using W3TC or other cache plugin is always recommended no matter which theme you prefer to use. ThemeFusion offers full support for using W3TC with Avada.
Avada is also consistently updated and maintained for overall improvements. Among other things, this ensures that the theme will always be ready for new versions of WordPress or popular plugin updates.
These are just a few reasons why Avada is a great fit for a multisite environment and why over 125,000 satisfied customers have made it their WordPress theme of choice.
We’ve covered a lot of ground here, and hopefully shown that getting your Avada theme up and running in Multisite is relatively straightforward.
Let’s briefly review the steps we took:
It’s admittedly no five-minute sequence, but still a small set of steps to gain access to the sort of functionality that a few years ago would have been the exclusive preserve of large firms with dedicated IT departments.
Let us know how you get on with your own local installs in the comments section, and share your experiences of leveraging the power of Avada with WordPress Multisite.
Recently we showed you some basic WordPress security settings to protect your WordPress site from some of the most common attacks. In this post, we will discuss more advanced steps that you can take to strengthen your WordPress security.
As the world’s most popular open source CMS, WordPress is a common target for lots of miscreants of the web. From young wanna be hackers to more sophisticated malicious code distributors.