Not All Hosting is Created Equal

There are many options when choosing a Web host for your WordPress site, ranging from the simple and cost effective to complex with high-levels of redundancy and reliability. Understanding how your site is hosted and picking the right configuration is key when determining how your site represents you or your organization. $1.99 or $5.99 cheap hosting plans sound great but I feel it is important to understand what you are paying for and making an informed decision on how much you are will in to spend for what could be an incredibly important part of your marketing effort or online presence.

How Much Downtime Can You Afford?

Servers, just like your desktop or laptops are computers. However the difference between the computer you use and a Web server is that we expect a server to be up and running, without problems, 24/7/365. Think about the last time a program froze on your computer or the last time you rebooted, such problems and actions are often considered unreasonable when dealing with a server. However I have news for you: Servers go down. It is a fact a of life. Sure everyone offers 99.9999 up time but that typically refers to their network or to an across the board average and not the particular server your Website is running on. However there much you can do to protect yourself from outages and with the price of technology coming down everyday, understanding various hosting configurations will help you make key decisions.

What the Video Covers

Various common/popular WordPress hosting configurations and the advantages and disadvantages of each:

  • Single server
  • Multiple servers (Web and database)
  • What a load balanced environment is

Take Away Lesson:

Not all web hosting is created equal and going with budget plans might not be the right choice if your site is critical to your marketing presence online.

Video Transcript
Hi there. I’m going to talk about some common WordPress hosting configurations. I’m going to start with the relatively simple and cost-
effective and work my way up at a high level to more complex and more expensive solutions that add a level of redundancy and reliability. So let’s get started.

In any WordPress hosting scenario you’re going to have your web server or where your web files are stored. And then you’re going to have your database. Now, in the simplest configuration we can put these both on the same server. Now, though simple and easy to set up and very cost effective, this is a weak system in that it doesn’t matter if the web server goes down, if the database server goes down or if the server as a whole has a problem, your website is coming down.

So, one of the things we can do to make this a little bit more reliable is we can separate out the web and the database servers. Now what this allows us to do is to dedicate servers to specific tasks. So, we’ll have our web server and our database server. This is the most common configuration you’ll find in budget hosting plans. So, if you’re hosting with GoDaddy or Network Solutions this is probably the configuration you’re using.

However, it doesn’t add any redundancy or reliability because if any one of these points were to have an issue your website’s coming down. It doesn’t matter in this scenario that the database server is up and running just fine. If your web server is having a problem your website’s going to be down. Same thing if the database goes down. It doesn’t matter if your web server’s running just fine, your website is down.

So, what can we do to make this a little bit more reliable? Well, we can add more web servers to the mix. When we do this we’re going to keep our database separate. But, in order to make this work we’re going to have to introduce what is called a load balancer. A load balancer balances traffic between multiple web servers. So, it’s going to send traffic to either the web server one or web server two in this scenario.

However, there is another level of complexity that’s introduced here. We have to keep our web servers in sync. Because it doesn’t matter which server the load balancer sends a user to, we want that user to have the same experience regardless. But this is a great configuration because if one of our web servers were to go down, the other one remains up and running and we’re serving web pages just fine, giving us time to fix the problem web server.

However, you may have already noticed the weak point in the system and that’s our database. If the database is down, it doesn’t matter how many web servers we have up and running that are functioning, your website’s going to be down. So, to make this even more reliable, we can have multiple database servers. Again, this adds another level of complexity in that not only do we have to keep our web servers in sync, but we have to keep multiple database servers in sync.

Now, you an add to this configuration and you can keep adding to it. With each level you’re adding redundancy and reliability but when choosing a hosting configuration for your website, you have to decide how important it is to have it up and running at all times.

If you’re running a small, personal blog it’s probably not a big deal if it comes down on a rare occasion. However, if it’s a larger site or a corporate site or one where you have users that rely on the information you have, you may want to look into a more reliable system or a more complex configuration.