Wordpress · AWS

Best Wordpress hosting setup?

Stephen Johnston Building innovation ecosystems

April 11th, 2015

Our website crashes a lot and am wondering if we should switch from AWS to a different host, and what people's experience of Wordpress sites on AWS is.

Our site aging2.com runs on Wordpress (3.9.2 running Pitch Premium theme) hosted on AWS, but AWS server crashes a lot (every week or so, twice in the past 2 days). So our site is down much more than it should be - we're selling tickets to our Summit via the site, so we lose revenue and reputation. We've been adding more and more to our website and it's becoming an increasingly important part of what we do.

So my options seem to be:
1. Our WP installation is buggy (I've put in loads of plug ins) and big (blogs with pictures, big logo files etc) so we should focus on fixing that
2. AWS isn't optimized for WP so we should change servers
3. Both of the above

I'm the company founder and we don't have a CTO. We have someone running the site who wants to move it and rationalize the site (option 3), but i'm a bit surprised if AWS really doesn't work well for Wordpress and our site is not that high traffic (5k/month) or content rich compared to many, so wanted to get hear about others' experience of running WP on AWS before switching things over, and any other CTO-style advice / input about how to keep our website running at or near 100%.

Mike Stemple Founder at Inspirer

April 11th, 2015

My first thought is that AWS is NOT the cause but the actual code base itself.
I looked at your code and on the home page alone there is 8 "Failed to load" files, all css based, all theme files. Also is there a reason why you have not upgraded to WP 4.1.1? 3.9 is a year old now. The crashing could be because plugins are updating to the latest version of WP but your WP is older. The error logs would shed light on this. Additionally your theme has not been updated sense "Last updated: April 14, 2013", in web years that is like 1,245 years :) I would recommend someone come in and clean up the theme (I use the "x" theme for Inspirer.com because it is very stable, constantly upgraded, and scores well for speed), update WP, check any plugins for issues, and run a security check. As you are running an outdated version of WP there might be some nefarious code causing the crash (i.e. spam engine).
So in re-cap AWS is pretty stable, I use A Small Orange for hosting and love them. Probably your code. Straight forward to fix. Need help just ask.

Jake Carlson Software Development Manager at Oracle

April 11th, 2015

WPEngine.com -- they'll get you sorted out and you won't have to worry about it as much. 

Marcus Matos Software Development & Information Technology Professional

April 11th, 2015


Imagine that you buy a really nice car that you just love. You drive it around for a few months, throw in a couple of aftermarket parts to make it even nicer, and all is well.

A few months later the manufacturer sends you a couple of recall notices. They seem relatively minor and/or you don't understand them, so you decide it's not worth the effort to take time off to get those things fixed.

A couple of years go by and you're still relatively happy with the car. You haven't changed the oil once because, well, your car is running just fine as far as you can tell.

Suddenly one day you start hearing a strange noise coming from the engine compartment. It's intermittent so it's not a priority. It still gets you to work every day. You ask your friend who knows a little bit about cars to take a look, and he throws a couple of bottles of additive in to the gas tank.

A few weeks later another friend is in the car with you and says "hey, what's that noise?" You're suddenly aware that your car creaks with every dip in the road. When you hit the gas the car seems to hesitate, or maybe the tires are slipping a little when you try to accelerate or brake a little too hard.

"Damn this city and their lack of road maintenance!", you might think. "Eh, this car just builds up sludge faster than other cars", says your not-a-mechanic-but-knows-enough-about-cars friend as he dumps another bottle of fuel system cleaner in to your gas. "There's nothing wrong with your car! You just need to drive exclusively on our roads!", says the local toll road authority (who, to their credit, actually does keep the road in pristine condition).

What would you consider to be the real problem here?

So, to get to my point:

It sounds to me like you don't have the knowledge or team to support to choice in platform that you've made. The problem isn't the host (AWS). The problem isn't the platform (WordPress). The problem is that you've installed "loads of plugins" on top of an aging installation and have not given it the love and maintenance that it needs.

Now, I don't want to be harsh here, but a 60 second scan of your site and server configuration gave me the impression of a project where prioritization decisions were misguided. AWS hosting comes in to play when you have a very strong technical team, i.e. an AWS SysAdmin who will properly configure your environment and firewall, a Server SysAdmin who will properly configure and secure the O/S for a public facing site, a DB SysAdmin who understands the needs of the applications it will be supporting and will configure it as such, etc. THEN, you need your WordPress Admin/Webmaster who will actually manage the WordPress site and/or its content.

If this sounds like a bit much, that's because it is. This is a WordPress site that doesn't require much more than a reputable webhost and the WordPress admin. If you're running on AWS and don't have a full-time sysadmin or someone who isproactivelymaintaining the server, you're doing it wrong. Likewise, if your site is crashing a lot and you continue to have to reach out to your webmaster to get it back up (reactive), you're doing it wrong.

I've written all this up not just in response to Stephen's post, but for some of the other non-technical founders I see here posting with similar issues. Don't be led in to thinking that signing up with the Cadillac of web-hosts is a good idea unless you also have a team of Cadillac experts available to you. A server is not a "sign up and forget about it" deal. I've taken on way too many projects where a previous technical "adviser" led them to some very expensive technical decisions that they had no team to support -usually because the previous technical person wanted to get their feet wet in a new technology at the expense of the client.

Okay, I'm done ranting. My advice to Stephen:

1.) Get away from AWS. The fact that your AWS server is running outdated software with known security issues and open service ports tells me that you don't really have a sysadmin on your team. (A WordPress expert or even a very strong Web Developer does not imply knowledge in System Administration.) Move to a reputable host. I've heard good things about Pagely, A Small Orange, and SiteGround, however have very little personal experience with them. My understanding is that under Pagely, security updates and maintenance items are applied globally and automatically by their team. (Edit: By the time I finished my reply, several others recommended WP Engine.)

2.) If not already done, get your guy to clone your site so you have a "test" version and a "live" version.

3.) Get your guy to update the WordPress installation to the latest versions. Remove any and all plugins (not just disable - REMOVE) that you don't need, and strongly consider which of your plugins are absolutely critical. This would be done on the Test site so that there is no risk to the Live site during this process. If all goes well, migrate it over to Live.

4.) SSL certificates are cheap. Get one and run the site over HTTPS. It adds a tiny bit of additional credibility (and may have a positive impact on SEO.)

5.) Add proactive maintenance to your strategy. A good host dedicated to WordPress may include managed services/maintenance as part of the plan. Let your web guy do what he's good at: design, content maintenance, etc, and let the infrastructure guys handle what they're good at.

I hope this helps you understand some of the issues from a higher level, and also helps push you in to seeking a very strong technical adviser to run any technical decisions by. In the end, you're really just running a basic, informational WordPress site so don't complicate things any more than necessary.

Good luck!

Bob Binder Member of Technical Staff at Software Engineering Institute | Carnegie Mellon University

April 11th, 2015

I've been using SiteGround to host WP Multisite and have not had any availability problems in the year + since I switched from BlueHost. I left BlueHost because they were clueless about Multisite, but fine otherwise.Either is worth a look. Siteground tech support is very responsive.

Although Azure is now touting support for WP, it is still bare metal.



Gary Herman

April 13th, 2015

I highly doubt AWS is the culprit here.  Of course having a tuned setup on AWS can effect performance and alike, loading a WordPress install with a ton of plugins is not a great approach to solving general business needs and often causes these type of situations to occur.  It’s an unfortunate misconception that WordPress doesn't require expertise to run, while a common one.  We get approached by clients on a very regular basis in almost the exact same situation you’re in.

The long and short of it is that AWS (or more specifically - what I assume you’re referring to EC2) is a blank slate and allows for complete customization as if it were bare metal.  So it is possible that your setup was not done correctly or optimized within AWS it’s more than likely that the installation of a bunch of plugins and perhaps the large non-optimized photos is the problem or a large part of it.

Just as critical, I would highly recommend upgrading to a 4+ version to get the new security and maintenance enhancements. 

If you require some assistance with your installation I can have someone on my team take a look…  Your site should be running with extremely low downtime if any and should be snappy and responsive; 5,000 visitors a month is commendable, but a very small load on the server overall unless you’re providing some chaos theory computations on the fly or something of that nature.

John Pettitt Visionary multi platform engineering executive and technology entrepreneur

April 11th, 2015

WP engine are really good. They have some really nice features like versiond backup, a staging site and git integrations.  - Sent from Mailbox

David DeMember Co-Founder at Toi

April 11th, 2015

Wpengine for sure. Let me know if you need help getting your site updated. That's a must also. We work with wordpress quite a bit.


Bob Binder Member of Technical Staff at Software Engineering Institute | Carnegie Mellon University

April 13th, 2015

I'll agree that AWS (or Azure) is not a good choice for WP hosting unless you're able to maintain all the related infrastructure (PHP, MySQL, etc.) and you really need the on-demand scalability.

Hearing about Wpengine.com for the first time here, I took a look. Seems like a good service, but limited to WP hosting only. I also use my ISP for its multi-domain, multi-account email server, multiple domain management, etc.Wpengine doesn't appear to offer that.

I run two WP multisite installations at Siteground for $15/month, plus email, SSL, domain management, FTP, etc.Hosting this at Wpengine would be at least $100/month, without the related services.

I like Wpengine's bundling of Git and staging. But if you're not a developer already familiar with Git, it is a distraction at best and at worst a chain saw without a handle.

Mary Baum Digital consultant and web developer to the tennis industry. Standard on WordPress and the Genesis Framework.

April 13th, 2015

I'm not a fan of email and websites on the same server--I suspect if you're a back-end guy it's different for you. But I'd rather put clients on managed WP hosting and then use Google Apps or Rackspace for email. For me it's a matter of control as well as reliability: I also register domains at yet a third vendor. Granted , it's not like the old days when we spent hundreds of dollars on film and thousands on printing (and I saw no reason to pay the printer to mark up the separator's invoice). But there are shared hosts who don't have a customer-facing ui for editing DNS. And if a client has both domain and hosting there, there's no leverage w/the host if service levels drop.

Micah Baldwin Startup Ecosystem | Rapid Growth | Fundraising | Product Development | Business Development | Executive Management

April 13th, 2015

Hey Stephen, I work at AWS and am happy to help in any way we can. But, let me suggest Page.ly (http://pagely.com) or a similar service to manage your WP install. Those guys are great (disclosure: Im an advisor) and are still small enough to provide hand holding. WPEngine is great as is SquareSpace, et. al. as well.

Feel free to email me directly if I can be of help - micahbal@amazon.com