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6 Tips For Hosting WordPress On Rackspace Cloud Sites

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This post was written and contributed by Melvin Ram, CEO of Web Design Company.

At Web Design Company, we build websites almost exclusively using WordPress. It’s a great content management system (even for websites that don’t have a blog) and allows us to give our clients a lot of control over their websites.

Recently we switched over to Rackspace Cloud Sites for all our WordPress hosting. The biggest reason for the switch was that it gives us peace of mind that if any of our websites or our client websites grew rapidly or gets hit with a big spike in traffic from news coverage or a sudden raise in search engine rankings, all the hard work put into getting the traffic won’t go down the drain just because the server couldn’t handle the stress. The other important reason was that it provides a simply interface for getting a website setup quickly.

In the 3 months we’ve been on Cloud Sites, we’ve setup a large number of WordPress websites and learned a lot. There are some general challenges in hosting a WordPress website and some that are specific to WordPress hosting in the cloud. In this post, I’d like to share with you 6 tips to getting WordPress working smoothly on Cloud Sites and getting the most for your money from Rackspace.

TIP #1: Have An AUTOMATIC WordPress Backup Strategy

Cloud Sites has a really nice hosting system but the backup system really isn’t all I wish it would be. The files are backed up for a few days but after that, they are gone. Also, the database isn’t backed-up so if you accidentally install a faulty plugin or a worm gets through that really screws things up and erases your database, you’re in deep doo-doo.

For these reasons and many others, you need a solid backup strategy in place for your WordPress website that is completely hands-free. If you involve ANY manual steps, your backup strategy will fail. The day you forget or don’t have time to do that manual step will be the day all hell breaks loose and burns you.

The best solution we’ve standardized on is backing up our websites to Amazon S3 servers. Yes, it’s not on Rackspace Cloud Files. That’s on purpose. If for some CRAZY reason all data on Rackspace gets attacked, hacked and erased tomorrow, we’ll still be able to recreate our client websites with the backups on Amazon S3. I suspect it’s unlikely that both Rackspace & Amazon S3 will go down at the same time for an extended period of time.

What do you need to backup? Everything! Well, everything except the WordPress core files. This means the plugins, themes & the uploads directory as well as a complete dump of your mysql database.

How can you back up the above files to S3? We’ve sponsored the development of a plugin called the Automatic WordPress Backup plugin that really takes care of everything that needs to be done. It also provides you with a nice interface for downloading your backups. Dan Coulter did a great job with it. We’ve been testing it for the last few weeks and it has worked great for our websites.

TIP #2: Copy/Paste Inside The File Manager For Faster Setup

If you’re planning on setting up & hosting multiple WordPress websites on your Cloud Sites account, you can speed up your setup process by creating a template folder in your root called web that contains the files you want to start your websites with. Then, just go into your File Manager from inside the Cloud Sites control panel and copy & paste it into the website directory.

The trick I’ve found for copying and pasting the info is to copy is like normal but to paste, you have to go inside the website folder (ex. www.example.com) to to paste it. You can’t simply select it and hit paste. I usually include WordPress files, plugins that I plan on using on most websites and theme files. This can save you at least 5-minutes of file uploading since WordPress is around 8 MB without plugins or theme files.

TIP #3: Allow WordPress to Update Itself With More Memory

WordPress recently came under heavy fire because an Internet worm ran wild and it specifically targeted older versions of WordPress. Even popular bloggers such as Robert Scoble were hit hard by the worm. This whole fiasco did not affect websites that had upgraded to the latest version of WordPress because the latest version had a fix for the worm. The lesson I learned from this was KEEP YOUR WORDPRESS UPDATED!

Keeping a WordPress website updated has been made much simpler with the automatic update function of WordPress. However, on Rackspace Cloud Sites, this can fail sometimes because the process of auto-upgrading can take up a lot of memory. The default limit is 32MB. However, I needed to change my limit to 128 MB to upgrade to the latest version of WordPress (2.8.6).

How do you change the memory limit? By creating/modifying the .htaccess file . I actually created a file in my root so it would apply to all my websites. Here’s the code you’ll need to increase your limit to 128 MB:
php_value memory_limit 128M

TIP #4: Allow WordPress To Upload Large Images & Files

Cloud Sites has a 2 MB file upload limit by default, which is fine for most images & files. However, there will be times when you’ll want to upload bigger files. To increase your file upload limit, you’ll need to again add/modify your .htaccess file. Here is the code you’ll need to add:

php_value post_max_size 128M
php_value upload_max_filesize 128M
php_value max_execution_time 6000000

I’ve just increased my limit to 128 MB as I know I won’t need to go over that limit. You can set your limits as you need to.

TIP #5: Get Unique IPs For Your Websites By Adding SSL

On our Cloud Sites account, we’ve got lots of websites that we’re investing heavily on. Due to the fact that Cloud Sites is a shared hosting system (even if the resources for it are unlimited), the IP address of your website may be the same as some other websites.

In SEO circles, it is said that having a unique IP for your website helps with search engine rankings (or more accurately, it prevents your website from being hurt by some other website who has the same IP employing deviant tactics.)

Whether there is truth to this rumor or not, you may decide to give each of your most important websites a unique IP. The way you can do this is by enabling SSL for your Cloud Sites ($20/month extra) and creating an SSL for each website (which cost around $12/year from GoDaddy.) This will give your website a unique IP. You can get in touch with technical support via the live chat or phone support to help you guide you through this process.

TIP #6: Increase Speed & Cut Compute Cycles With WP SuperCache

Cloud Sites are fast but even the fastest web host can’t serve up WordPress websites at the same speed as it can serve up static files that are NOT dynamically generated. This is especially true if you’ve added a number of plugins to do all the cool things that WordPress can do. For this reason, you might consider utilizing the WP SuperCache plugin.

The WP SuperCache plugin makes a static cache of your website and serves up the cache version (static files) instead of going through the full WordPress load cycle and generating HTML output each time someone visits your website. This means that your website will be more responsive and you’ll cut down on your compute cycle usage. Big Win-Win!

You can test out the difference in response time by using the Pingdom Tool .

What Now?

I hope the above tips will help easy the process of using Cloud Sites for your WordPress hosting and that you’ll utilize the advice & plugins above. I’ll see you in the comments below.

View also article from the Knowledge Center: http://www.rackspace.com/knowledge_center/index.php/Install_and_use_WordPress

Melvin Ram is the CEO of Web Design Company, a marketing & design firm specialized in building search-engine friendly, WordPress websites.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Angela Bartels.

Angela runs integrated marketing campaigns for Rackspace. She started at Rackspace in 2003 and has done everything from Linux support, account management, sales, product marketing and now lives in marketing. She left Rackspace in 2005 to work for PEER 1 Hosting but returned in 2009 because she was interested in the cloud computing movement (and has always been a Racker at heart). Angela is a strong believer in the power of storytelling.


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32 Comments

Ok…please do the same posting, but for Drupal sites on the RS cloud.

avatar Josh on December 21, 2009 | Reply

Josh, Good idea. We do need to do one for Drupal, stay tuned…
-Angela

avatar Angela Bartels [Racker] on December 21, 2009

Can you guys setup a forum for WordPress?

https://manage.rackspacecloud.com/forum/

It would be great to have one to discuss WordPress/RackSpace specific issues.

Alex

avatar Alex Rodriguez on December 21, 2009 | Reply

Alex, Fantastic idea! Let me talk to the team about this one.
-Angela

avatar Angela Bartels [Racker] on December 21, 2009

Tip #1, could be easily and reliably accomplished using a cron job. I perform backups this way because it works across all types of content management systems as well as wordpress. See this link for more details: http://bit.ly/7jq1br

avatar Joe Liu on December 21, 2009 | Reply

True but it’s kind of a pain to figure it out, have it to do the database at the same time and to do that across lots of websites. The plugin just makes it easy and keeps my sanity in place :D

avatar Melvin Ram on December 21, 2009

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avatar Rackspace Cloud Computing & Hosting | Wordpress Hosting on … | digital living 365 on December 21, 2009 | Reply

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avatar Rackspace Cloud Computing & Hosting | 6 Tips For Hosting WordPress … | ArtykułyNet on December 21, 2009 | Reply

I would love to hear of tips on running WordPress MU sites on one of these setups. Particularly, suggestions on how to monitor bandwidth and usage for a number of blogs at once!

avatar Raymond Brigleb on December 21, 2009 | Reply

Excellent guide, thanks for sharing. Have you also checked out http://www.backupmoxie.com/ for the automatic backups? We built it to do exactly what you’ve described. Nice plugin, though.

avatar Devin Reams on December 22, 2009 | Reply

fantastic advice. ive implemented pretty much all. loving rackspace and this helps a lot too with some performance issues i was having! i take it that a .htaccess file in root affects all sub sites?

avatar jeremy barnish on December 22, 2009 | Reply

Yep, that is what I’m doing.

avatar Melvin Ram on December 22, 2009

Rackspace cloud is best!

avatar Mahmud Ahsan on December 23, 2009 | Reply

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/w3-total-cache/ is much faster the wpsupercache, curious why your company uses the latter?

avatar Dan on December 24, 2009 | Reply

I’ve been testing out W3 Total Cache but I wasn’t able to get the same speed increase as I was able to get with SuperCache… but I suspected I was doing something wrong. I couldn’t recommend something I’m not using or couldn’t get to work well, thought I’ll see if Rackspace allows me to update the article and include a link to Total Cache as an alternative.

avatar Melvin Ram on December 26, 2009

I know this article is a bit old, but wanted to recommend using W3 over Supercache. I’m running a high traffic site on cloudSites right now and migrated from SuperCache to W3 – we saw really big difference.

It took a good amount of time to get the settings just right on W3, but once it was set, the site was in much better shape.

The other thing that made a huge difference was putting all the files on a CDN (we’re using Amazon S3 + CloudFront).

avatar Jaki Levy on March 21, 2011

I feel like all of this advice is questionable at best, and it started out with an ad promoting Amazon’s S3 over Rackspace’s cloudfiles?

avatar Matt on December 25, 2009 | Reply

Oh I wasn’t promoting S3 over Cloud Files. We’ve simply made the decision to use S3 to dilute some risk. We’re going to be adding Cloud Files as well as FTP support in the near future.

I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “questionable at best”.

* Have An AUTOMATIC WordPress Backup Strategy
* Copy/Paste Inside The File Manager For Faster Setup
* Allow WordPress to Update Itself With More Memory
* Allow WordPress To Upload Large Images & Files
* Get Unique IPs For Your Websites By Adding SSL
* Increase Speed & Cut Compute Cycles With WP SuperCache

Which of these could we do differently / better? I’ve shared how we do things so that others can get a head start and so that I can learn from the discussion. If you’ve got a better way of doing things, I’m all ears.

avatar Melvin Ram on December 26, 2009

What a great solution for backing up – implementing now! Couple the S3 backup with an automatic pulldown to a local machine – brilliant!

I’d add a recommendation for 1Password (Mac only), running multiple sites and maintaining high quality passwords for login info and db’s is made so, so so much easier with 1Password.

avatar londonfilmgeek on January 4, 2010 | Reply

Hello – It seems there is now a version 2 of the Automatic WordPress Backup plugin and it is not working for me on Cloud Sites anymore. Sometimes it says the backup completed and sometimes it doesn’t say anything, but either way.. no zip file backups are saved in my S3 bucket. I looked at the AWB blog site and I saw a number of people reporting some bugs in it recently. Anyone else able to get it to work for them on Rackspace Cloud Sites?
Thanks,
Dan

avatar Dan on February 21, 2011 | Reply

I run both wordpress and drupal. I think the advice would be the same except that #6 you could substitute a BOOST cache module, and there are two others–authcache and cashe router, but I believe authcache may be going away. But, the boost cache module and cacherouter are ones I use.

Also, one thing that was not mentioned was an APC cache.

WordPress and Drupal page cache modules and plugins cache whole pages so that your web server can serve them up without having to fire up a PHP program to do it. That can make the difference between serving up 6 or 7 pages per second or 2000 pages per second (not including graphics, css, js, and such–just the main html).

Where pages cannot be served up, it’s great to have an object cache so that the whole page doesn’t have to be generated every time–for instance, when you’re administering your site or when people are entering comments and such.

Where the APC cache comes in is that when you have to run PHP code, rather than dragging it into memory and doing a just in time compilation before getting started, the APC cache can keep the hottest, most used pieces of code already compiled and in memory and ready for action. It can also be used for a very fast object cache.

And if your drupal sites share a same directory or if you’re running WP Multi-site perhaps with domain mapping, your PHP code in your APC cache will be shared reducing the memory demands to one copy of everything. And your websites will run like the blazes.

avatar Daniel J. Dick on March 12, 2011 | Reply

Daniel – I actually spoke to Rackspace CloudSites support tonight – APC cache is something that is supposedly not yet available on CloudSites, but will soon be available in the coming weeks/months. Have you heard different?

I run the Boost module on my Drupal sites, and it keeps my sites humming along, but the APC cache is what made the difference between an available site and a crapped out site.

avatar Jaki Levy on March 21, 2011

Sorry not to respond sooner. I don’t know what Rackspace offers, but if they’re going to offer APC caching, that can speed up PHP significantly. The Boost cache should kick up performance significantly by generating static pages and compressing them and thereby avoiding the lengthy process of generating each page dynamically for general readers who are not logged in. APC on the other hand caches your PHP code in memory making things faster when you must generate your pages again.

I’m not sure what’s up with object caching in drupal, but I noticed that there is an object_cache module available for Drupal 6 which was made obsolete or replaced by “entity_cache” in Drupal 7. Unfortunately, I have not played with these recently.

avatar Daniel J. ick on June 25, 2011

APC Cache would make a huge difference for WordPress sites.

Hope Rackspace will enable this PHP module soon.

avatar Frank on April 24, 2011 | Reply

Great article. Tip # 5 was something I wanted to know, and is actually what has now convinced me to switch to Rackspace. Thanks for the solid advice.

avatar William Pfeifer on June 16, 2011 | Reply

Just wanted to say that, in regards to # 5, perhaps something has changed since the original article. It seems like they have a cluster of servers serving up SSL sites. So, it’s still possible that you’re sharing a single IP address with multiple sites. In my case, I know that two separate sites share the same IP even though I purchased SSL for each of them (based on the recommendation of this article). I haven’t taken the time to investigate further. Would be curious if others understand this the same way. Thanks!

avatar Bob Tabor on July 14, 2011

Bob – Installing a SSL certificate will indeed provide you with a unique IP address for your website. We’d be happy to discuss this in detail with you if you would like. You can contact our support techs by calling us at 1-877-934-0407 or just hop into a live chat session through your Control Panel.

avatar Matt on July 14, 2011 | Reply

Your first point is so important. I run a company called Backup Machine that automatically backups up WordPress installs and it’s surprising just how many people tell me that they don’t bother backing up their WordPress site.

avatar Andi on August 2, 2011 | Reply

I’ve been told by CloudSite tech support that using SSL and a unique IP would remove the benefits of being load-balanced. Is that true?

avatar Hubert on August 27, 2011 | Reply

Nice work! Very good tips.

I have also put together a Cloud Sites backup tool. It is not specifically for WordPress sites, but it does autodetect WordPress installs to make backing up the database easier. It is still in the early stages, but is looking good so far.

You can check it out here, http://zipitbackup.com

Hope it helps, Jereme

avatar Jereme on April 24, 2012 | Reply

You have a problem with this post. Tip #4 is cut-off mid-way somehow. Thanks for the other tips though!

avatar Joe on January 16, 2013 | Reply

Hi Joe,

I believe the issue has been fixed. Thanks for pointing it out!

-Andrew

avatar Andrew Hickey [Racker] on January 17, 2013

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