Web Hosts: WordPress is here to stay. Adapt!

WordPress is the number one user-installed web app, and its growth is showing no signs of slowing. If you are a web host, and you don’t have a specific strategy for WordPress, you’re likely operating your service inefficiently, and may be opening yourself up to security issues. This is the year to adapt, or be left behind by nimbler upstarts.

Performance

WordPress does not currently ship with any output caching. First, because most blogs never get enough traffic to need it, so it’s not worth the added complexity and configuration that it would add to our relatively nimble core. But also because every environment is different, and what works on one web host may actually degrade performance on another. So we leave it up to the WordPress user to choose whether they need a caching plugin, and which one to run.

As a web host, you know what caching strategies will work best with your server architecture. You have the ability to roll out things like Memcached or APC. You can route image requests to a lightweight web server or a CDN. These changes will result in a better user experience, and they’ll save you money.

Security

All code has bugs. WordPress has had its share of security issues through the years. As a web host, you can help keep your users out in front of security issues instead of just being reactive when someone gets hacked. First, by encouraging, or even demanding that users upgrade their sites to the newest available version of WordPress. In practice, there aren’t any widespread attacks against the current version of WordPress. The large scale attacks you see from time to time are against old versions of the software whose users haven’t updated in a while. It is in a web host’s interest to encourage upgrades and reduce the incidence of exploitation.

Because WordPress is so widespread, it also is often the victim of attacks that originated against other software or server misconfiguration. So a bad guy gets in using something else, and then once in, they look for WordPress installs to exploit. You can help users recover from these attacks by aggressively backing up their data and by looking for suspicious files or suspicious code that could indicate that a bad actor is exploiting their WordPress install.

What you can do

  • Get your company to abandon the mindset that you’re just a dumb host who doesn’t care what software your users are running. Users want and are willing to pay for a more specialized experience. If you tell them that it’s not your problem, they’re going to go find a service that will support their web hosting needs.
  • Offer WordPress-specific hosting. Specially optimized, prodigiously backed up, with a more locked-down environment. And because it is a specialty service, you can charge more than you do for your regular hosting products!
  • Build an internal WordPress Response Team that has in-depth training to help diagnose and fix WordPress bug, security and scaling issues. And in the meantime, hire a WordPress consultant like me or one of these fine consultancies to get your WordPress strategy rolling.

People ask me for hosting recommendations all the time. I have a few decent hosts that I’ll recommend, but I don’t have any hosts about which I can say “use them, because they know how to host WordPress, and they’ll support you.” I’d like nothing better than to have a dozen such hosts to recommend by this time next year. WordPress is here to stay, and it’s time for web hosts to adapt!