WordPress hosting, revisited

In early August, we got an unexpected vacation. One Friday afternoon, everyone’s website went down. We couldn’t get to them via browsers or FTP. While we appreciated the externally-imposed coffee break, we did not appreciate the ensuing bad news – that it was time to switch hosting providers for every single one of our clients.

First, if you’re not living your daily life on the internet, you may need to know some terms:

  1. shared hosting: when you buy shared hosting (rather than dedicated or VPS), your website lives on a server where many, many other websites also live. You never see them when you log in, because your hosting provider sets it up that way. This is why it can be so cheap… you’re essentially in the nosebleeds, or in one of those hotels in Japan where you crawl into a sleeping pod in a wall of hundreds of other sleeping pods. Cheap, yes. Cozy, yes. Luxurious? No.)
  2. migration: fancy name for moving files from one location to another.
  3. hacking: when some ne’er-do-well decides to make some trouble by gaining unauthorized access to your web server and doing something to get attention. Much like putting dish soap in a water fountain or TP-ing a front lawn, there’s generally no malice towards you directly, but it totally makes your life difficult.

Now, on to the details.

For years, I have recommended HostGator for WordPress hosting. They have been really, really good to me. Their shared hosting service has been second-to-none, and their pricing has been really reasonable. When I originally went looking for a shared hosting service to recommend, I wanted to find something that would be really affordable for my clients across the board – not just per month, but holistically (cost of migration, cost of SSL installation, the cost of my services when dealing with it, the safety of your site, its ability to play nicely with different software including WordPress… etc.). After a lot of research and talking to different people, salespeople, clients, fellow developers, colleagues who manage hosting themselves, I landed on HostGator. And I was very happy for what seems like ages. I became an affiliate because I was sending so much traffic to them, and I talked them up regularly.

That has changed.

Why we’re changing our approach to WordPress hosting

Last year, a company called EIG purchased HostGator. One of the things that EIG insisted on as part of the purchase was for the data centers to be consolidated to their server farm in Utah. They have also consolidated some of their personnel and infrastructure. Since then, HostGator has become steadily less affordable, although for us and our clients, it was not noticeable as being attributable to hosting until recently.

Many of you may have first noticed something different recently because you got notices that your sites were being migrated. While this didn’t impact you at the time, you will soon likely notice its impact. Not only are servers running more slowly, sites have been going down (like during the recent DDoS attacks in August) and server access has been spotty.

What’s worse, the customer service quality has taken a nosedive. What used to take 5-10 minutes to resolve now takes 30-45… and when it comes to complaints about slowness or site availability, the response is essentially to push the problem back onto you because you’re running WordPress.

As far as we’re concerned, this is unacceptable for all but the most basic of our clients. When your income depends upon your website’s performance, you don’t have the luxury of waiting out poor performance.

The other part of this whole situation is the sharp increase in hacking attempts on WordPress installations. If you are on a sanitation plan with us, we’ve been doing the best I can to monitor and protect your sites with our standard sanitation practices. Some of you have had the unfortunate experience of being hacked and having to purchase help from Sucuri (an awesome company who helps you recover from hacking). Others have gotten lucky, thanks to a combination of diligent site sanitation and grace. But no matter how you cut it, owning a WordPress website has changed over the past 3 years, and we are now to the point that we must adapt to the new landscape. The great news is that WordPress is VERY adaptable! But it won’t adapt on its own. We, as owners, need to take initiative.

Now, we’re not approaching this like a forest fire, where you pack up your valuables and flee. It’s more like someone moving in next door and starting to raise pigs or many chickens. You start plotting your move ASAP, but in a calculated way.

The BIPI plan for changing WordPress hosting

  1. You need to plan to migrate. When you choose to do this should be based on your business’s demands on your site (like how busy you plan to be at what times during the next 4-6 months) and your budgetary constraints.
  2. At the very least, we should move your site to A2 Hosting’s solid state drives. This will give you the support you need for a WordPress installation, the customer service you have a right to expect, and a price tag that isn’t too much more than HostGator.
  3. Ideally, you would move to WPEngine’s WordPress hosting. We cannot rave enough about the folks at WPEngine. The level of service they offer both from a technical and an interpersonal standpoint are second to none. They are dedicated WordPress hosting only, which means they can be hyper-focused on setting up the server environment to make your sites fast, secure, and sustainable. While their price-tag is higher than HostGator or A2, the overall cost is less… because they include so many bells and whistles with their service, you require fewer hours from BIPI to keep the site safe and running smoothly – and when we do do something on your site, it will take us less time. With WP Engine, you are better able to forecast the cost up front (not that you can ever truly know… the internet is a wild, dynamic place that constantly changes).
  4. We recognize that the cost of a WPEngine plan can be prohibitive for anyone with a) more than one site or b) the need for an SSL certificate for a payment gateway can be prohibitive. increasing the cost of your hosting 8-10 times is just not possible for many of you. To this end, we are taking on a risk that we haven’t been comfortable with before – creating a shared hosting environment for BIPI clients. The reason we’re doing this now is because we trust WPEngine, and because there is a clear benefit for our clients. We also have been assured that, should you want to leave the BIPI shared environment, you can easily do so at any time without having to migrate your site to another company or wrest it away from us on your own. WPEngine will be there to help you, too.

If you need information on what the pricing, billing or maintenance will look like for you under the BIPI WordPress hosting umbrella on WPEngine, let us know below! We hope to have it up on our pricing page some time in late September, but we’re always here to answer your questions now.

by | Last Updated: Aug 24, 2013 | shop talk, WordPress website advice