The Quickstart Guide to Enterprise WordPress Hosting

WordPress is the go-to platform for small businesses, freelancers, and entrepreneurs. It’s a low-cost, easy-learning-curve, customizable CMS. As such, it has developed a reputation as being perfect for entry-level web development.

But WordPress isn’t just for bloggers anymore. The same flexibility that makes WordPress great for small businesses also make it a solid enterprise-level CMS. With the right configuration and hosting, WordPress can be a scalable, future-proof, solution that makes managing content easy. In many use cases, WordPress isn’t just a comparable option, it’s the best option.

This guide will help you determine if WordPress is the best fit for your enterprise, address potential challenges of WordPress enterprise hosting, and help you choose a WordPress hosting platform that will work for you.

1. Why WordPress for the Enterprise?

There are several characteristics that make WordPress an ideal hosting platform for enterprise applications. Here are just a few:

  • Flexibility and Customizability. Because WordPress is open-source software, your company can decide on the upgrades and plugins that make the best sense for your application. You can be more agile to adjust to industry trends and handle issues—no need to go through a vendor to make changes.

  • A Vast Developer Ecosystem. The more popular WordPress gets, the better it gets. There are far more developers working on WordPress than there are for any major software company. Choosing WordPress as your CMS gives you access to a treasure trove of accumulated wisdom, with new innovations arriving at a steady clip.

  • Superlative Content Editing Tools. WordPress will delight the people who manage your site’s content, as it’s built with content editing in mind. The CMS has a simple, seamless interface for adding and editing content, even with multiple content managers.

  • Scalability. WordPress’ flexibility and customizability make it inherently scalable. With the right hosting infrastructure and good development practices, your WordPress site can handle millions of pageviews a month.

  • Backward Compatibility and Future-Proofing. WordPress is a CMS that can meet your company where it is and help you plan for the future. The core development team is committed to backward compatibility, and the entire development ecosystem ensures that the CMS will continue to be updated into the future.

These characteristics and more have made WordPress the choice for even the largest corporations, including Microsoft and Facebook.

2. WordPress Vs. Drupal: Which Is Right for Your Enterprise?

It’s a simple question with a long answer. Both Drupal and WordPress are powerful, full-featured CMSes with comparable capabilities. The question isn’t which one is objectively better for all applications, so here are a few key considerations to help you make the choice.

  1. Transformers vs. Lego. WordPress is like a Transformer: It’s a polished product with multiple configurations. If your client’s needs fit one of the configurations, you can get up and running faster with a complete product that still allows for customization.

    Drupal is more like Lego. It can be virtually anything you can imagine—but it will take planning and building time to realize your vision. The control over every detail comes with a higher tax on development resources.

  2. Budget. Development tends to take more time on Drupal. That means a higher upfront investment to get your site up. Expect more time and money spent on updating as well—Drupal updates are less frequent but more involved.

  3. The Number of Content Types. Drupal excels at managing a diverse array of interrelated content types (e.g. pages, events, bios, etc). If you need many content types that should interact in numerous ways, Drupal is probably a better fit.

  4. The Number of Content Editors. Conversely, if you have a large team creating content in just one or two types, WordPress probably makes more sense. WordPress makes it easy to set permissions and control access for multiple content editors, is likely to be easier for non-tech-savvy editors to update content and it’s likely that at least some of those editors will have previous experience with WordPress

Essentially, which CMS is the best fit for your enterprise will depend on your needs and resources. Each has specific strengths that make it preferable for certain applications.

WordPress is becoming the CMS of choice for more and more of the enterprise and big publishing sectors. Over the 5+ years that we’ve been solely focused on delivering WordPress at scale in those markets we’ve seen the conversation change significantly. People came to WordPress for its speed of deployment and publishing experience, they’ve stayed because of its unparalleled focus on backwards compatibility, the robust security of the core CMS, and its proven flexibility to meet the diverse requirements of some of the world’s largest enterprises.    

3. Dispelling Enterprise WordPress Myths

Wait thirty minutes after you eat to go swimming. Chewing gum stays in your stomach for eight years. WordPress is just for mom-and-pop shops. All of these statements were once conventional wisdom, and all of them will keep you from fully enjoying life. So have a meatball sandwich in the pool, swallow gum with impunity, and ditch these WordPress myths.

Myth #1: WordPress Isn’t Secure Enough for the Enterprise!

This myth rests on a few valid assertions: As the web’s most popular CMS, WordPress is a prime target for exploits, and some WordPress plugins can introduce vulnerabilities.

However, WordPress core is quite secure. There has never been a major exploit on the most updated version of the WordPress core. Plugins that have been thoroughly vetted are equally trustworthy. With a little due diligence, WordPress can be just as secure as any other CMS.

Learn more about securing WordPress.

Myth #2: There’s No Technical Support for WordPress!

Those who are used to a commercial product with a 24/7 tech support team may be confused by WordPress’ community-based support. But there are ample resources available for any WordPress user who needs help. The community maintains comprehensive documentation and active support forums where developers can ask and answer questions.

Additionally, if you work with a reputable agency to build your site, they will offer a support plan that spells out their technical support services. The right hosting platform adds a layer of support on top of both.

Myth #3: WordPress Sites Are Slow/Unresponsive!

As in life, what you get out of WordPress depends on what you put into it. There’s nothing inherent in the CMS that causes websites to be slow or unresponsive. If your site is properly optimized and you have a solid host, it should be as fast as any other CMS out there.

Here are a few quick tips for getting the best performance out of your WordPress site:

Myth #4: WordPress Is Just for Blogs

This is the rare myth that used to be true. WordPress began as a blogging platform in the early 2000’s. But it has since evolved into a full-featured CMS. Saying WordPress is just for blogs is like saying Netflix is just for getting DVDs in the mail: It doesn’t take into account the past decade of development.

As with any CMS, WordPress requires proper configuration, hosting, and administration to fulfill its potential. With these considerations taken care of, however, WordPress is a robust CMS perfectly capable of handling the biggest enterprise web presence. Anyone who says otherwise is myth-taken.

WordPress Hosting Performance Considerations

The most common challenge large companies encounter when adapting WordPress for the enterprise is a human one. Most people have heard of WordPress, and some may have heard negative things. Those people may look for reasons not to use it.

Scaling WordPress is now a science, but convincing large organizations to accept change has no science. Enterprises require a competent and confident WordPress ambassador to champion the new technology. Fast, reliable hosting is very important, but only after the decision to adopt WordPress is made.   

4. Recommended Plugins for Enterprise WordPress Hosting

WordPress’ flexibility and customizability is a key part of its appeal. The right plugins can optimize everything from customer interaction to site administration. The best plugins vary widely depending on your site’s specs and your use case, but here are a few favorites.

First, recommendations from Daniel Bachhuber, WordPress consultant and Principal at Hand Built:

  • Bylines. Assign multiple authors to a post, and publish articles from guest authors. Bylines represents the best in class of WordPress plugin development.

  • Fieldmanager. Crank out form and field interfaces for the WordPress backend. Fieldmanager is well-architected, immensely flexible, and generally a joy to work with.

  • Safe Redirect Manager. Does one thing and one thing well: redirect management. In addition to standard A to B redirects, Safe Redirect Manager also supports regex matching and a variety of redirect status codes.

Here are some favorites from Flox Founder John James Jacoby:

  • HyperDB or LudicrousDB for database distribution across multiple servers. Some hosting options have solutions for this baked in.

  • User Switching and Query Monitor. Use these together for a more comprehensive look at how WordPress is running, and to help developers identify problems.

We also recommend a plugin to help upload and move files, like S3 Uploads or WP Offload Media.

5. Choosing the Right Enterprise WordPress Host

Having a great WordPress site on an underpowered platform is like putting a go-kart engine in a Lamborghini. Sure, it might look great, but it’s not going to win any races. Make sure the engine that drives your enterprise WordPress site has the horsepower to stay up and responsive no matter what.

Here are a few services you should demand of your enterprise host:

  1. Security. WordPress core itself IS secure. But your host should still make security a priority. That means supporting SSL and having baked-in protection against intrusion and DDOS attacks. WordPress is also most secure when the core and plugins are up-to-date, so updating and applying patches should be easy and automatable.

  2. Performance. Make sure your host is optimized for WordPress to avoid long response times that can affect your search engine rankings and turn away business. You have the right to expect top-notch performance even when traffic spikes.

  3. Scalability. Speaking of traffic spikes, your host should be on top of the changing traffic demands of an enterprise site. You shouldn’t have to anticipate demand and pay extra up-front, or be forced to upgrade hardware every time you get a bump in popularity. A truly scalable host will seamlessly allocate resources to meet demand, making sure you pay only for the capacity you need.

Find out what it takes to run WordPress at scale.

  1. Workflow & Support. Your host should support robust development workflows to cater to an enterprise site’s complex development needs. You should be able to develop and test without affecting the live site, and consolidate changes from multiple dev branches. If something goes wrong, you should have access to support 24/7, preferably before you even know there’s a problem.

What to look for in a WordPress Host

Ready to move your enterprise site to a new WordPress host? Check out our Quickstart Guide to WordPress Migration.

Learn more about Enterprise WordPress hosting on Pantheon, or create a free development account today. We never charge for development—you only pay when your site launches.