Next-generation managed WordPress hosting

What if there was a managed WordPress company that got rid of its servers altogether, and focused on helping you achieve the best possible results from any infrastructure on the market?

Here’s how it might work:

  1. When you sign up for an account, you connect your Google Analytics account, so the service has intelligence about your current traffic patterns.
  2. Based on expected resource utilization, the service suggests a server configuration on AWS, Digital Ocean, or Google Cloud Platform. Once you select your preference, the service provisions a WordPress-optimized hosting stack on the provider.
  3. As a part of the offering, the service provides a best-in-class object-cache drop-in, CDN-based full-page cache, Elasticsearch integration, etc.
  4. Over time, as the service passively monitors the performance of your WordPress instance, it offers suggestions for additional application-level optimizations (think New Relic but with a higher-level understanding of WordPress).
  5. Over time, the service also passively monitors your resource spend. If it detects there’s a more price-performant option on the market, the service makes it possible to migrate your site to new infrastructure seamlessly. As an example, a client of mine was spending $1k+ per month on Amazon’s CloudFront CDN. Now they’re spending $20/month on CloudFlare.

The target market is every customer subject to “Contact us for a quote” pricing (typically $2k/month and up). The service would enable a non-technical company to run their website in the price-performant public cloud without needing to internalize the DevOps cost.

Some existing options include ServerPilot and Laravel Forge, but neither focus deeply on WordPress.


Back on WebFaction (again)

If you’re seeing this post, I’ve moved my site back to WebFaction (again). I decided a while back that I don’t want to sys admin a Digital Ocean box and, surprise, it took me a bit of time to sit down and actually move everything over. In doing so, I’ve set up a fancy SSL certificate too.

This site’s history: switched from 1&1 to WebFaction in June 2009, to Slicehost in May 2010, back to WebFaction in September 2010, and to Digital Ocean last March.

Moving on up

If you’re reading this post, then you’re seeing a brand new hosted by Digital Ocean. I’ve been a long-time WebFaction user, but the allure of cheap SSD was too much to pass up.  That, lack of two-factor auth support, and generally feeling like WebFaction is stuck in the early 2000’s caused me to branch out.

And I’ve been incredibly impressed. The machine is fast (although I guess I’m jinxing myself now), the control panel is just what I want it to be, and the price make me feel like I’m committing a robbery.

For anyone that wants to take a peek at what I’ve done, the repo is in Github. It was intended to be a one-day project, but I ran into some domain-mapping hell. As it turns out, core doesn’t fully support domain mapping as I thought it did.

Lastly, I provisioned my new machine using masterless Salty WordPress (work in progress). Hoping to align incentives such that Salty WordPress continues to be the best way to provision local and production WordPress machines.

#wcbos: Enterprise Publishing on VIP is an “awesome blogging platform,” according to Chris Murray of Oomph. is “get started writing or blogging”, not “get started worrying about technology.” requires downloading the software, installing, and configuring. This gives you more flexibility, but it also means it’s more complex. Entreprise customers are somewhat in a lurch choosing between standard and because the former isn’t flexible enough and the latter has the potential of too many headaches. VIP is the “best of both worlds.” Customers don’t have to worry about keeping servers up, but they have more of the flexibility that comes with installing new plugins, etc. VIP clients include:

  • CNN
  • RIM
  • NBC Sports
  • VentureBeat

To think about the different types of hosting offerings, a typical basic dedicated server includes hardware, network connectivity, and electricity. Managed services include all of that, plus take care of your basic LAMP stack. VIP cares about everything plus WordPress, including caching, load balancing, upgrades and functionality.

When working with VIP, the process is probably a little different:

  • Any custom code needs to happen in the theme layer.
  • You need a great developer to work with (in-house or third-party).
  • Highly collaborative approach. As a developer, you can actually interact with folks at You can pitch ideas and ask for feedback on the best way to do it.
  • Theme submission is a process with VIP. All code is reviewed line by line for best standards, security, and performance. Once the theme is approved, they’ll set up a Subversion repository for your theme.
  • Deployments are done with the VIP team.

Code is a little different too:

  • When you’re writing code for the VIP environment, someone is always reviewing. It makes you think more about whether you’re doing it the right way. The focus is on beautiful code.
  • Need to follow WordPress Coding Standards.
  • Plugins are included in your theme’s functions.php file.
  • Security and performance is the number one concern with the VIP team, things like sanitizing input fields and ensuring database queries are performant.

When it comes down to it, the biggest different between VIP and self-hosted: you (have to|get to|learn how to) do it right.


Q: How do you do staging?

Chris: Often we’ll have a staging server in-house that’s client facing and/or use one of our five sites with the standard package as the pre-production site.

Q: Could you explain more about the lack of network admin?

Chris: is a multisite network in itself, so they don’t give you super admin access. If you want to set up a new blog, it’s a more involved process including requesting the site, configuring everything, submitting a theme for review, etc.

Q: Is customer code required to be licensed under the GPL?

Chris: I’m not sure. Licensing is definitely something to be discussed.

Q: What types of things does VIP support?

Chris: VIP support offers lots of support including theme reviews, plugin reviews, data migration. They don’t write code for you however. Any custom development should be done in-house or with a contracter.

Chris: “Working with the VIP team has added tons and tons of knowledge to my team.”

Other questions:

  • Is VIP running stock WordPress, or are there tons of custom modifications?
  • If VentureBeat were to install a new plugin, would other VIP clients be able to access it?
  • What things can be done to expedite the deployment process? Are there any common gotchas?
  • How do new features get requested if lots of clients want it?

Q&A: Rusty Lewis on CMN’s new business model

Q&A: Rusty Lewis on CMN’s new business model. It just hit me: College Publisher inadvertently made it cost-effective to hire a developer and host it yourself. Student publications who don’t, and instead pay $2K/year for a terrible CMS while also donating their advertising revenue to CMN, aren’t long for this world. I can’t believe College Publisher would stick this to 80% of their clients.

Back on WebFaction

After just a few months of administering my own Slicehost machine, I decided yesterday to move all of the personal sites I manage back to WebFaction. For personal stuff, I decided I need to focus more on publishing and less on figuring out why my memory usage is so high. Or, in the case of yesterday, why there were approximately 124,000 more rows in the posts table than there should be. Culprit: Core Control plugin for WordPress.

WebFaction is also significantly cheaper than Slicehost. Their basic plan starts at $9.50/month; I’ve been paying $32.50 for a 384 MB slice I hardly used.

For now, I look forward to having a super fast publishing platform where I can focus on the words and images instead of the technology.

Now served with Slicehost

If you’re reading this, then my website is now being served from 100% tasty Slicehost goodness.

For the past year, I’ve been using the most basic WebFaction plan for a few of my personal sites as well as several projects. WebFaction is known for its one-click installers, which make it super simple to get an instance of WordPress, Django, Trac/SVN, and a number of other web applications running in a matter of minutes. The downside and upside is that it’s managed hosting, however. WebFaction served my prior needs well but, about a month ago, I decided to make the switch to Slicehost to offer two opportunities: continuing practice with server administration and greater control over the entire stack when I need it.

Another awesome advantage to Slicehost is that their documentation is absolutely superb. I started out with a vanilla Ubuntu Karmic Koala instance, ran through all of the basic configuration and necessities, and installed Nginx in front of Apache in less than an hour. It’s not the first time I’ve set one up, but whomever writes their articles would make landing a space shuttle a walk in the park. The biggest hassle, and this is why it’s taken me a month to finish up, is just ensuring each site migration goes smoothly. Now that this is complete, though, I can go back to building out my website as my personal hub and, eventually, personal data repository.

If you’d like to purchase a sturdy yet flexible virtual private server, tell Slicehost I sent you.

New host and registrar

After a few weeks and a couple hundred dollars, I’ve finally transferred all of my domains to Namecheap and web projects to Web Faction. Previously, I was with 1&1 but intermittently ran into frustrations, including a limitation on the length of a CNAME and not being able to add SPF records, that pushed me to switch. I’m already having a lot of fun; Web Faction is wickedly quick (relatively, I suppose) and has one click installers for a number of content management systems and frameworks. This means that I’ll get to hack together a Django-powered blog in the near future without having to figure out how to configure Django on a server (although I suppose that would be the logical next step). Before a full transition to Django, because it’s going to take a lot of building to get to my desired feature set, I’m looking forward to experimenting with and integrating and MediaWiki into my personal web presence.

If you’re thinking about moving to Web Faction and are feeling generous, add “?affiliate=dbachhuber” to the end of the signup URL. It’s guaranteed to help a starving innovator out.