6 Tips For Hosting WordPress On Rackspace Cloud Sites

Filed in Cloud Industry Insights by Angela Bartels | December 21, 2009 12:38 pm

This post was written and contributed by Melvin Ram, CEO of Web Design Company.[1]

At Web Design Company[2], we build websites almost exclusively using WordPress[3]. 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[4] for all our WordPress hosting[5]. 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[6] 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[7] 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[8]) 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[9] ran wild and it specifically targeted older versions of WordPress[10]. Even popular bloggers such as Robert Scoble[11] were hit hard by the worm[12]. 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 [13]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 [14]. 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[15]. 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[16] 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[17]

Melvin Ram is the CEO of Web Design Company[2], a marketing & design firm specialized in building search-engine friendly, WordPress websites.

Endnotes:
  1. Web Design Company.: http://www.webdesigncompany.net/
  2. Web Design Company: http://www.webdesigncompany.net/
  3. WordPress: http://www.wordpress.org/
  4. Rackspace Cloud Sites: http://www.rackspacecloud.com/cloud_hosting_products/sites
  5. WordPress hosting: http://www.rackspace.com/cloud/sites/web-hosting/wordpress/
  6. Automatic WordPress Backup: http://www.wordpressbackup.org/
  7. Dan Coulter: http://dancoulter.com/
  8. www.example.com: http://www.example.com
  9. Internet worm: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_worm
  10. older versions of WordPress: http://lorelle.wordpress.com/2009/09/04/old-wordpress-versions-under-attack/
  11. Robert Scoble: http://scobleizer.com/
  12. worm: http://scobleizer.com/2009/09/05/i-dont-feel-safe-with-wordpress-hackers-broke-in-and-took-things/
  13. automatic update : http://codex.wordpress.org/Upgrading_WordPress#Automatic_Upgrade
  14. .htaccess file : http://cloudsites.rackspacecloud.com/index.php/.htaccess_Frequently_Asked_Questions
  15. .htaccess file: http://cloudsites.rackspacecloud.com/index.php/.htaccess_Frequently_Asked_Questions>.Hereisthecodeyou’llneedtoadd
  16. WP SuperCache: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-super-cache/
  17. http://www.rackspace.com/knowledge_center/index.php/Install_and_use_WordPress: http://www.rackspace.com/knowledge_center/index.php/Install_and_use_WordPress

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