You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby.
WordPress hosting comes up a lot in conversation with clients these days. It used to be that you could find a nearly free host, turn on your WordPress site and pay your $5/month hosting fee into eternity – not thinking too much more about it. WordPress has come a long way, even in the last two years. Those days of having your new WordPress site delivered and not touching it for years are over. The WordPress software code base is constantly being worked on and improved by the vast open source community which translates to software updates every 4-6 months. This means your shiny, new WordPress theme and fancy plugins have to keep pace. Themes offering modern functionality and popular plugins often require updates in about the same timeframe.
Don’t fret, updates are a good thing – rest assured that with WordPress, you’ve chosen to build a website that forces you to stay modern.
So What Does this Mean for You?
For one, it means your WordPress host and your relationship with your WP developer are more important than ever. Updates to your WordPress installation and especially your theme are rarely ever hands-off. Not only can they be intensive, they can break things. Your fancy site can turn into a white screen of death in seconds if WordPress is being updated but your theme and plugins are not, or if you add plugins that don’t jive, or if you update your theme in the wrong sequence, or… or… These relationships are important to nurture. And more than anything, you want to know there is a foundation of trust.
Know the Rules of the Game.
Don’t let me turn you off. WordPress is awesome, WordPress hosts are awesome, WordPress developers are awesome – but not all are created equal. You just need the proper set of tools to make the right decision for that bright future. Let me tell you a quick story… I recently updated a fancy WP theme for a client. It had been about 6 months since the last theme update and this was a big jump in versions. A WP software release had also occurred in the timeframe. So I crossed my fingers and forged ahead. My first update attempt was a huge failure – the site died and I had no idea why. My second, third, fourth… tenth attempts were all failures. Oftentimes you have to troubleshoot, make minor changes and repeat the effort to get it right. I did eventually get it right, but not without a fair shot of pain along the way.
BUT imagine if I had had no backup of that site when I updated the first time – I could have potentially lost the client site entirely.
Trent and I work exclusively with a WordPress host called Flywheel, they are worth their weight in gold and their service is nothing short of freakin’ awesome. In fact, the episode I just described inspired me to write this post – a small way to pay homage to their superfly team. Flywheel made my job bearable in those moments and they ensured that my client assets were well protected. The best part? They didn’t even know they were delighting me because I didn’t have to talk to them – their backend site admin is that good. A job that once might have taken me two days + a programmer, instead took me a few hours on my own. They are a WordPress specific host that offers superior site speeds due to servers tuned especially for WP, one click backups and reversions, automatic daily backups, staging environments, and most importantly a team of smarties that have your back. They cost a bit more than your average host ($15/month good for most starters), but that extra few bucks a month is worth every single penny.
Tips for Success.
- Don’t be cheap – consider getting a WordPress specific host. Servers and support in this case are finely tuned specifically for your website.
- Always, always find a way to institute daily backups of your WordPress site with easy reversion capability. If you just can’t swing it via a host, perhaps it’s a plugin (such as VaultPress). You just can not live without this capability anymore.
- Talk to your developer about a maintenance plan upfront. Don’t let someone give you the keys to your new cadillac website without a manual. If you have a WordPress site, it requires maintenance, period. This should be part of your ongoing website budget.
- Arm yourself with knowledge. WordPress themes and plugins can be customized to a point of becoming non “updatable” without large future development fees. Sometimes this is necessary to deliver the functionality you’ve requested. BUT, you should know what you are getting into. Look for a series of posts about this subject soon!
Bottom line? Trust is imperative. Work with folks that you trust. The last thing you want in your WordPress website’s future is an elephant-sized surprise. And trust me on this one – if you are not prepared, it will happen.