WordPress developer, consultant, nerd

WordPress hosting, the easy way, with Flywheel

With such solid grounding in the do-it-yourself method, it’s not surprising that WordPress attracts countless numbers of bloggers, businesses, and entrepreneurs, all looking to succeed online as affordably as possible. As a WordPress developer, it’s not unusual for people in this situation to come to me, either looking for help with their already-established WordPress site, or looking for advice on how best to get off the ground. In both cases, a major consideration – often overlooked by many – is hosting.

Hosting is a necessary part of owning a website, and is available all over the world and all over the internet. It comes in a range of prices, features, specifications, and limitations, but for the purposes of this article, we will break hosting options into two broad categories – generic hosting and WordPress hosting.

The problem with many hosting companies is that they often lack the required expertise for rock-solid WordPress hosting support.

WordPress is just one of many platforms designed for developing websites, so most hosting options are designed to be as open as possible in order to support the widest range of potential clients they might attract. It’s not hard to find generic hosts with prices for less than $5 a month, boasting unlimited email accounts, huge bandwidth allocations, unlimited databases, etc… they are everywhere.

This might all sound promising, but if you are planning to run a WordPress site on your own and you don’t have a background in web technology, you might be playing a dangerous game! As with anything, it is often the cheapest options that appeal the most, and this is where people get got, because no-one mentions how difficult and frustrating cheap, generic hosting can be when they are selling it to you.

Hosting a WordPress powered site comes with its own set of perils which often go unknown until they become a problem. Server upgrades, security vulnerabilities, server configuration issues, lack of backups… these are just a few possible causes of a lot of stress and worry if your site happens to go down for some vague, bizarre, and often, unknown reason. It’s at this point the true nature of a host will start to come through, because you might start to hear support responses along the lines of…

“This is not a problem with our system and must be a problem with your WordPress installation.”

A classically frustrating response, due to its ambiguity, absence of responsibility, and complete lack of helpful information. Unfortunately, this is all too often the first response you will get, as a support team is normally under a lot of pressure to get through many requests in a short period of time. In addition, support team members are generally not experts in, nor do they have extensive experience with, WordPress itself.

Note:

Not all hosts are bad – many of them are quite helpful – but I am all too familiar with poor technical support and sketchy server setups, that I prefer to stick with services that specifically offer WordPress hosting. If you decide to go with a generic form of hosting, do your research! Make sure they have killer support, happy customers, and a configuration that supports WordPress before you commit yourself to their service.

Introducing Flywheel; a premium, managed WordPress hosting service.

Flywheel is a premium WordPress hosting company that are dedicated to keeping hosting easy by offering a WordPress-dedicated, managed hosting service. All they do is WordPress hosting! In fact, their main aim was to make a system that designers could use to easily setup and launch WordPress sites for their own clients, which means that every aspect of the hosting experience is not only designed well, but also aimed at people who don’t necessarily have high-tech backgrounds. Perfect for WordPress site owners – even the DIY-ers!

As a developer of custom WordPress themes, with a tenacious obsession for taking my work too far, I’ve spent far too many hours of my life battling with generic hosting systems to ensure that my clients’ websites are secure, fast, and always backed up – an emotional roller-coaster, to say the least. So, when I first discovered Flywheel, I dived on it.

Shut up, and tell me about the benefits of using Flywheel!

Ok, so in addition to the well-designed and easy-to-use administration interface, a hosting account with Flywheel comes with a range of benefits that are all designed to keep your site running smoothly, efficiently, and securely. To name just a few…

Automated daily backups

Your site is automatically backed up every 24 hours, meaning you always have a recent copy to fall back on, should you need to. You can even manually take a backup whenever you like, making it easier and safer to experiment with various aspects of your site – if something breaks, just restore back to a previous backup!

Malware monitoring and removal

On top of their rock-solid, secure setup, Flywheel constantly monitor the integrity of your site for potential hacks, and, if found, they clean it up… for free!

Built-in caching for performance

A built-in caching layer ensures your site is served up super quick – a necessity in a rapidly increasing, speedy internet.

Managed updates

You can spend less time worrying about updates to the WordPress core, because Flywheel take care of that for you.

Expert support

The experienced team at Flywheel are ready to answer your questions, tackle your problems, or at the very least, provide guidance on the best course of action. This is, honestly, my favourite part of the Flywheel experience.

For the tech-minded…

Flywheel have built a technology stack, specifically tuned for WordPress, that is fast and secure. They have developed their own easy-to-use admin interface – say goodbye to cPanel! – that allows site owners to add collaborators, manage the database, manage backups, manually flush their cache, and password protect their site, among other things. The Flywheel system also negates the need for maintaining FTP credentials for multiple sites, as every user has a single SFTP access point where all their sites – including sites they collaborate on – are available.

Are there any limitations to using Flywheel?

Good question, and certainly one we have to address if we are going to keep this fair. My experience with Flywheel has been nothing but positive, as their excellent service – which is something I value highly – is second to none. There are, however, a few small limitations that I’ve come up against. Fortunately, these are really only issues that would affect a developer, so for the most part, a site owner would rarely experience these as a problem. It is also important to note that Flywheel, being a managed WordPress hosting service, happily take care of a lot of requests for their customers, as you will read below. Here is a rundown of current limitations;

You can’t modify the wp-config.php file

This is not really an issue for many, as the wp-config.php file is really only for people who know what they are doing, and really want to tweak the WordPress configuration. Fortunately, Flywheel support has your back, however, and can easily take care of modifications to the file on your behalf. You can read about this in Flywheel’s article – How do I make changes to my wp-config.php file?

Flywheel are US-based, and so, their support hours are on a US schedule

I am in Australia, so there is often a delay in responses to support requests. I can say, however, that it is not uncommon to receive responses outside of Flywheel’s support hours, and I’ve never waited more than a day for a response.

The SFTP connection is a little slow all the way over here in Australia

Unfortunately, this one has created some chaos in my workflow. There is a considerable latency in connections to Flywheel’s SFTP servers, and it is not uncommon for a site upload to take a few hours. I know they are working on enhancing global support, but my solution, in the interim, has been to deploy committed changes using a local Git setup in PHPStorm.

.htaccess files are ignored

Flywheel run the NGINX web server, which ignores .htaccess files in favour of its own type of configuration file. This may affect the workings of some plugins that rely on custom .htaccess rules. For example, I came up against an issue with the MemberPress plugin, as it was dependent on its own set of custom .htaccess rules. Fortunately, after a simple email, the Flywheel team were quick to convert the necessary rules over to an NGINX-friendly format, and away we went.

Should I choose Flywheel for WordPress hosting?

You must, by now, be asking the question – Should I be using Flywheel as my WordPress hosting service? For the most part, my answer would be a simple, yes.

To date, I haven’t had a single client complain about Flywheel, and I can honestly say that, as a developer, Flywheel have saved me hours and hours of work that I may have otherwise spent optimising, debugging, and securing my clients’ sites. Whilst a hosting plan with Flywheel may seem a little bit pricier than other options, the value that you receive is remarkable – WordPress hosting with Flywheel is a lot like having insurance on your website. So, if you are still wondering whether it is worth it, you should ask yourself a few questions;

  1. If my site were to ever have issues, can I afford $50+ an hour for a developer to find and fix the problem?
  2. Do I have the technological aptitude and the time to learn enough about WordPress and the web to help myself?
  3. Do I have the know-how to handle advanced plugins such as caching, backup, and security plugins?
  4. Can I afford to pay for security-related services to monitor my site, and clean it up if I happen to fall victim to a hacker?
  5. Can I afford for my site to go offline for an extended period of time, for whatever technical reason, while I find someone to help?
  6. How valuable is my site data to me, and can I afford to lose it all and start again in the case of a hacker taking control of my site?

If you are unsure about any of those questions, you should seriously consider using Flywheel for WordPress hosting.