Really Cool Stuff

kadj;asdf;

Is it time to give GoDaddy WordPress hosting another chance?

GoDaddyWPMHHosting your WordPress website on GoDaddy has been strongly discouraged by me and most of the WordPress consultants I know because GoDaddy WordPress hosting has historically crammed so many accounts on a shared server that your own website performance was mediocre in the best of conditions. But what was worse, was the variability in the page-load performance for your site. But GoDaddy has just introduced a WordPress Managed Hosting plan that may change all that.

Here’s why GoDaddy hosting has been a bad choice for WordPress sites

Since WordPress requires the server to open multiple files AND to do multiple database record lookups and retrievals for each page that is requested, your website performance at any instant in time could be very slow because of activity on the other accounts on that server. You have no control over that. The more accounts on a single server the greater the likelihood that your reader’s request will just have to get into a queue behind requests from other websites.

For any low-cost shared hosting plan like GoDaddy, Bluehost, Hostgator, Fatcow, etc. the business strategy is to cram as many accounts as you can onto a single resource until the performance problems become so great that customers start to leave. At that point you setup another server and put more accounts on that. If you get lucky and are put on the new server early on your performance will be good, but as the number of accounts grows everyone will begin to notice problems again.

Why the new WordPress Managed Hosting plan may be a great choice for a small-business WordPress site.

speedometer_fast-wallpaperAt the beginning of the year GoDaddy introduced a new hosting plan just for WordPress, they put fewer accounts on the server (how many fewer over time remains to be seen…), they also gave the server more resources, but perhaps more importantly they’ve used a new architecture for the server configuration that is optimized for WordPress. I wrote a guest post the end of last year “Why We Recommend Our Clients Switch Website Hosting To WP Engine“about the hosting service WP Engine that I use for this Hartsook Letter website.

I reviewed the new GoDaddy WordPress Managed Hosting plan when one of my clients signed up for it, and it appears that GoDaddy uses many of the same techniques that WP Engine is using to optimize performance for WordPress websites. WP Engine costs $30/month for a website, GoDaddy charges $6.29! So what’s the difference, what are the Pros and Cons?

  1. GoDaddy includes email and will also register your domain. WP Engine ONLY hosts WordPress websites, they don’t host email or domain registration which means you need to pay for other accounts somewhere else to handle those.
  2. Both GoDaddy and WP Engine have basic plans that include just a single website, and upgraded plans that allow more websites.
  3. WP Engine has a great feature, a one-button staging site that makes a copy of your website for you to experiment on. You can try out new themes, plugins, make CSS changes and if you like what you see, another single button click will replace your current production site with the staging site. GoDaddy does NOT have this feature. If you want to make a staging site you have to manually export your site and move it somewhere else to experiment on, and when you are satisfied with the changes you either have to replicate those on the production site or manually replace the production site with a copy of the staging site.
  4. Both GoDaddy and WP Engine include enhanced website security and automatic backups for your site so you don’t need to configure additional plugins for that.
  5. Both GoDaddy and WP Engine will automatically update your WordPress files when updates come out and check to make sure the update doesn’t break your site.

Why I’m going to start recommending the GoDaddy WordPress Managed Hosting plan

If first impressions count for your website, it does make a difference if your page loads in 1 second instead of 4 to 7 seconds. That was why several years ago I chose to move my website to WP Engine. Now it looks like you can get that same performance at 1/4th the cost.

Most of my clients are entrepreneurs, small-business owners, and small non-profit organizations that don’t have a IT department to help keep their website up-to-date and backed-up in case something happens. With managed hosting most of that is included in the plan. There are just fewer things to worry about and the list of site maintenance chores is much shorter.

thumbsup

It sounds like a winner to me… check it out, it looks so promising that I’m starting to recommend it to my clients (if you use my affiliate link to sign up for GoDaddy WordPress Managed Hosting you pay the same price, but I get a small commission that helps me keep my consulting rates lower)

Problems with WebHostingHub.com – the devil is in the details

Time for a change

I’ve been looking for a new hosting vendor. My account at GoDaddy.com is up for renewal and I think I can do  better.

Also, there are rumors that GoDaddy is on the block and I’m concerned about long term changes in service and pricing should ownership change.

I’ve been using BlueHost.com for about six months to host blogs for several clients and have been very happy with their services, functionality, and superb tech support, but I’ve had ongoing problems with slow load time, page loading stalls, and using a site monitoring service find that site downtime was running between 4 and 6 hours/month for several accounts on different servers.

It doesn’t matter how inexpensive the plan is or how many features the vendor offers — if the site is down, it’s just not worth it.
It doesn’t matter how inexpensive it is or how many features the vendor offers, if the site doesn’t load, and I’m talking at all hours of the day, not just early morning times for scheduled maintenance, it’s not worth it.

Too good to be true

After reading the rave reviews at Web Hosting Geeks I decided to try Web Hosting Hub The price looked good at $4.95/month for hosting unlimited domains, bandwidth, storage space, email, etc. Plus for each new account they offer a lifetime renewal for a single domain.

So I went for it. Got my account, cPanel and ftp access and started transferring files from my GoDaddy server to WebHostingHub. So far so good.

Then I initiated the domain name transfer. I unlock the domain at GoDaddy, get the EPP authorization code emailed to me, and send that on to WebHostingHub to make the transfer. In the mean time I change the nameservers at GoDaddy to point to the WebHostingHub nameservers.

I think I should also get started transferring my email accounts too. I primarily use Gmail for managing and reading all my email and therefore have my hartsook.com addresses forwarded on to Gmail. I have several email accounts at hartsook.com, each getting forwarded on to its own Gmail account, one for my daughter, one for my mom, a couple for some business accounts. But here’s the problem. I also use hartsook.com for ad hoc email addresses when I want to test web forms, account setups for clients, etc. I get the confirmation emails, make sure everything looks good, then update the email address to go to the client’s address.

The devil is in the detail

The problem is that while GoDaddy, Bluehost, and other vendors offer “catchall” mailboxes (an inbox that gets all email to a domain that doesn’t match a specific email account), WebHostingHub has decided that they will not offer this functionality. They will do a global forward of all email from a domain to a single address, but it’s either everything OR specified addresses – no catchall for those ad hoc emails that I create all the time.

There was no work around – it was a deal breaker. I’ve initiated a stop order on the domain transfer and will cancel my 2-year hosting contract.

Take Away

What initially may seem to be a minor technical detail can grow to be a major problem. Often there are work-arounds, either using a different technology, or modifying your business process to accomodate the technical reality. But in some cases you just have to back up and start again with a new plan. You haven’t failed — you’ve learned something about technology, the market, and your own business practices that will inform better choices in the future.

Testing a new Picasa and Flicker plugin for WordPress – Photonic

I just pasted the URL of a Picasa album below (http://picasaweb.google.com/107310476656218787840/PieterSUkulele)

Picasa Web Albums – Pieter Hartsook – Pieter’s Ukulele

Photos by Pieter Hartsook, Jan 18, 2007 – The ukulele I built studying with luthier Mike Da Silva

Using the raw URL doesn’t does work, but making it a link will take you to the album at Picasa

Using the Photonic “shortcode” will also make it work. The general shortcode format is:

[bracket]gallery type=’picasa’ user_id=’abc’ album=’ablum_name'[closebracket]

So I’m going to use

[bracket]gallery type=’picasa’ user_id=’107310476656218787840′ album=’PieterSUkulele'[closebracket]

And here’s what you get, a nice gallery, with lightbox/slideshow effects.

WordPress site migration, copying your site and moving it

There are several reasons why you might want to copy your website,

  • you want to make a “sandbox” copy to experiment on, without affecting the public-facing production site
  • you want to change hosting companies to get a better deal, faster performance or more functionality
  • having a complete copy of your website is a great insurance policy should something happen to your host and your site is lost.

wordpress-explained

If your site uses WordPress then just copying the files in your account is not sufficient. Since WordPress stores almost all of your site’s content in a MySQL database, you have to copy that too.


Manual WordPress Backup and Migration

Just copying your Posts and Pages

WordPress includes Export/Import tools that create and use an XML file to make a copy of your site. The drawback of this method is that it does not copy your themes, plugins, or preserve your menus and widget settings. But it is a quick method to grab and move your WordPress website contents.

First you export an XML file from the original site. The tool downloads this to your computer. Then using the import tool you upload that same file. During the import process you can choose to have the new site find and copy all the images you used on your posts and pages and add them to the Media Library of the new site.

These tools are in the Tools section of the WordPress dashboard

tools_import_1

tools_export_1

tools_import_2


Making a complete copy of your website including the themes, images, and plugins and all your configuration settings

1. First install a new copy of WordPress in the location you want for your new site.

Many website hosting companies offer a “one-click” install of WordPress that creates all the files and the database you need.

2. Copy the files, images, themes, and plugins you’ve added to your existing website.

wordpress-directory-structure-9All of the image files you’ve inserted into your posts and pages are stored in a directory in the file system. Also, the themes and plugins you’ve added are also stored in the file system. So the next thing to do is make a copy of the /wp-content/ subdirectory in your WordPress website directory. The wp-content directory includes the /themes/, /plugins/, and /uploads/ directories, and the /uploads/ directory is where all your images are stored. You have to have file manager access to your hosting account either through the hosting company control panel via a browser, or via ftp access using an ftp application like Filezilla. 

Make a copy of the directory and download it to your computer

3. After you make a copy of the /wp-content/ directory you replace the wp-content directory in new location with the copy from your old site. This will get you all your images, themes, and plugins, but not your posts, pages, menus, user accounts, or any of your configurations and settings. Those are all stored in your database.

wordpress_database_tables

Tables in a basic WordPress MySQL database

4. Make a copy of your database

Most of your text and configurations are stored in the WordPress MySQL database, so next we need to copy the database.

There are several methods that will do this.

1. You can export the database using your host’s control panel phpMyAdmin utility
2. There are several backup plugins that will make a copy of your database. BackWPup (free) and BackupBuddy (not free) are a good for this.

You will download the exported .sql file to your computer

4. Replace the new website database with  your exported database

Just as you used phpMyAdmin utility to export your existing database, you use the same utility to empty the default tables in the new database and import your .sql file to replace the default data from the new WordPress installation.

But before you can import the data from your old site you need to get rid of the existing data. This is called “dropping” the tables. You select all the tables then select Drop from the menu.

phpmyadmin-drop-tables

After you Drop the tables you have an empty database ready to import your old website data. Use the Import link to begin the process and upload the .sql file you saved to your computer. Once this is uploaded you’re almost done.
Portable-phpMyAdmin-List-Of-Database-Tables-1024x512-5
5. Edit the location of your new website in the database

Since you now have an exact copy of the old site there are a couple of problems. WordPress still thinks it is located  at the original URL. You have to select the “Options” table in the new database and edit records #1 and #37 which tell WordPress where it lives.

You will see the old URL in those fields. Replace with the new URL and save. At this point you should be able to go to the new URL and see your old website with everything in place. But there may still be one more problem. If you have internal links in your posts or pages linking to somewhere within the website those will still point to the original URLs. You have to install a Search and Replace plugin to find all the instances of your old URL in the database and replace those with the new URL.

After you have finished this go to your Settings>Permalinks in your dashboard and just Save. This refreshes the permalink settings for the new URL.


 Moving your site using a Migration Tool plugin

As you’ve seen above, copying and migrating manually is possible, but is detailed and exacting. There are multiple steps and making a mistake anywhere along the way will cause the process to fail. But there are a couple of plugins that automate the process.

backupbuddy-logoDuplicatorBackupBuddy costs $80 and Duplicator is free. For copying and migrating your WordPress website they work almost exactly the same. They create a “package” which includes all your files from your wp-content directory AND all the WordPress files too. They also create an installer.php file you use to migrate the site.

Here’s how the process works.

  1. Install the plugin of your choice.
  2. Run the plugin to create a package and installer file and download those to your computer.
  3. Create a MySQL database for the new location (this is the most technical part of the process, you need an empty database and you need to know the database name, database user name, and password).
  4. Upload the package and installer files to the new location.
  5. Run the installer.php program at the new URL. It will ask you to verify the new URL and what the new database credentials are (from #3 above).
  6. The installer program then unpacks all the WordPress files and all your data, imports all the content, themes, plugins, configuration and settings into the wp-content folder and the database, and then changes all the URLs from the old site to the new location!
  7. It’s still a good idea to go into the new site and update the Permalink settings. But other than that, you’re done.

The first time you do this, give yourself an hour. But after that it usually takes about 15 minutes. I do this frequently and in most cases prefer using the Duplicator plugin.