Once, all the animals of the jungle decided that their kids should get co-curricular education. A committee was formed and soon, it was decided that the course would have the following:
The class consisted of a fish, a monkey, a rabbit, a sparrow and a snake. They were taught lessons all year long and on the final day, they had to demonstrate what they had learned.
You can guess what happened.
The fish could only swim. The rabbit was not able to swim or fly. The sparrow was able to fly but it could not swim or climb. The snake could:
- Swim a bit.
- Try to climb.
- Try to fly and after jumping, kept falling on its head.
- Wasn’t very good at running.
However, since only the snake could do the tasks (even though half bad), he was declared the best student.
The moral of the story is that while we can try to do different things at once, it is best to focus on one thing. One should not aim to do everything.
However, your hosting company may be doing exactly this. In the race to the bottom, they will try to provide everything at lowest price possible. That is how they are providing unlimited everything and support for 200+ softwares on their server.
Because of this, your website suffers. Since the main aim is to provide everything, important things are put on back burner. Things like:
Security and performance do not look like a big deal until the moment you need them.
Having bad security can put your website at risk of getting hacked, your data stolen and your traffic hijacked. Worst case, you will get blocked by Google.
Bad performance can cost you customers, sales and traffic.
A WordPress Security Horror Story
In 2013, I decided to move away from a cheap hosting provider because my sites got hacked. At the new company, everything went fine for first couple of months.
Then in early 2014, I got a warning from them that my websites were infected. I took it to be an one time incident, cleaned everything and moved on.
Then in the last months on 2014, I got the same warning again. I was busy and did not pay much attention, just cleaned sites again.
In 2015, I got this mail from Google Webmaster Tools:
This was a disaster. My host had no idea about this and my sites were serving malware. I cleaned up the websites thoroughly and decided to search for a new hosting company.
Why and how do WordPress sites get hacked
The most common reason behind WordPress sites getting hacked is outdated or vulnerable plugins. But even after you keep everything updated and have security plugins in place, weak security on your server will increase changes of getting hacked.
And why will the server have weak security?
Consider a common web server from a shared host:
It sits among thousands of servers in a data centre and your website files are stored on it. However, your website is not the only responsibility it has. It has to do a thousand tasks. And WordPress may not be the only one software running on it. There are other scripts on the server. There may be a Joomla site in another folder, Drupal site in next one and an e-commerce site in yet another folder.
To allow all these systems to run, the server has to get a little lax on security. This opens opportunities for hackers. And once they gain access to server using any of the weak points, it’s game over! All your security precautions and plugins won’t matter.
And since the hosting company has thousands of servers, the chances of hacks getting detected are very low. In fact, at my previous host, a hacker had put malicious code and the company had no idea about it until Google Webmaster Tools notified me.
So, what is the solution to all this?
Managed WordPress Hosting
Managed WordPress Hosting is not a silver bullet that will solve all your problems. But it will take care of 99% of them.
What exactly is a “Managed WordPress Host”?
In general, a managed WordPress host is a company that only hosts WordPress sites.
You may have heard of WP Engine, Pressable and WordPress VIP. All of these are companies/products that focus on WordPress exclusively.
That means that their servers only have WordPress and they provide better, WordPress focused features than your normal shared hosting.
How will it help you?
If you opt for managed WordPress hosting by a reputable company, you will have these benefits:
- Security: A managed host will only allow WordPress on their servers, so they can take extra precautions. For example, they won’t allow you edit any of the WordPress core files. This is a common way of hacking and it’s now automatically take care of. Additionally, most of the managed hosts automatically block malicious login attempts to WordPress admin, which is another common attack method.
- Performance: Managed hosts have specialised environments setup to make WordPress faster. For example, they will provide server level caching which is faster than common coaching method of installing plugins. Most of them also provide a CDN that increases your website’s speed.
- Support: With shared hosting, you usually get generic replies to WordPress related questions. With a host that focuses only on WordPress, you will get spot on answers. I have been working with 2 managed WordPress hosts for a couple of years now and their support has been incomparable to any shared host.
- Add-ons: Most of the managed hosts offer useful add-ons like staging sites and developer tools which are generally not available with shared hosting providers.
Is it all fun and games in Managed WordPress land then?
There are several drawbacks present when you move over to a managed WordPress host. While you will get security, performance and support with a managed WordPress host, there are going to be a few drawbacks.
- No Email: Since the servers are optimised for WordPress performance, manages hosting company won’t provide extra features like free email. You will either have to go for a paid email provider like Google Apps or use a free one like Zoho Mail.
- Only WordPress: If you currently use multiple content management systems, then managed hosting may not be for you as you will not be able to put other software on their servers.
- Limits on traffic/bandwidth: Most WordPress hosts limit the number of visitors or bandwidth per month according to pricing plan. If you manage to get more traffic than your plan limit, you may need to pay slightly more.
- Limited sites: Another limit with managed WordPress hosting is number of sites you can run. For example, Pressable, the company that I use allows only 5 sites on their starting plan. WP Engine allows only 1.
- Cost: Due to all the extra features and security that you get with managed hosts, you need to pay them slightly more. Depending on the company you choose, it will cost $5 to $50 per site.
How to get started with Managed WordPress Hosting
If you already have a WordPress website elsewhere, you will need to sign up for an account and migrate your sites.
A lot of hosts offer free migrations. You may want to do some research before selecting a company if migration is a concern.
If you are just starting out and don’t have a website, it is super easy. You just need to create an account with your host. It will be instantly activated and you will be ready to use WordPress.
Which company should I sign up with?
There are lot of managed WordPress hosting companies out there and it would be impossible to test them all.
However, I have worked with a lot of WordPress sites and based on that, I recommend these two:
- Pressable: Pressable was recently acquired by Automattic (the company started by WordPress founder and a major contributor) and provides hosting starting $25 a month. $25 plan gives you 5 installs and includes CDN, caching, backups and staging sites. I use Pressable for all persona, work and client websites and am are more than happy with their customer care and server performance.
- WP Engine: WP Engine is a well known name in managed WordPress hosting and for a reason. They are a bit expensive but they provide best performance and developer features. I have worked with them for several large customers and they have good support with all the required features.
If you have any other question about managed WordPress hosting, just leave a comment.
Need help with WordPress setup on a managed WordPress host? Get in touch and I will help you to start a stellar website.