WordPress Cloud

What it Means to Move WordPress to the Public Cloud

There is growing interest in moving WordPress sites to the cloud. WordPress is increasingly used for complex and large scale websites. Many organizations are leveraging the simplicity of the platform for users and editors, while developing advanced custom functionality and building a strong infrastructure to support high traffic loads.

Source: Flickr, Sivaserver—Google data center

As you scale up your WordPress site or Multisite network, a natural question is, why not do it on the cloud? Cloud infrastructure services like Amazon EC2, Windows Azure, and Google App Engine are known for their near-infinite scale and robustness. On the other hand, the public cloud raises security concerns, and presents technical complexities that aren’t present in an on-premise setup or ordinary hosting.

This is the first of a series of pages in which we’ll review key considerations of moving WordPress websites to the cloud, and cover a few methods to actually do it—move your WordPress installation from your own premises to Amazon, Azure, or Google.

WordPress on the Cloud vs. Other Hosting Models

When we say “WordPress on the Cloud” we mean running WordPress on an Infrastructure as a Service provider such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. Let’s put this “extreme” option in context of other WordPress hosting options:

On-premise hosting: Running WordPress on a local server, managed by yourself or your IT department. This means assuming complete responsibility over the server’s maintenance (both hardware and software), uptime, and security.

Shared hosting: Running WordPress on a remote server that hosts many different sites sharing the same computing resources. This is a cheap option used by many sites, but is typically unsuitable for websites requiring high availability, high performance, or scale. Here the hosting provider assumes responsibility for server maintenance, security, and uptime, and might provide certain features such as backups.

Dedicated/managed hosting: Running WordPress on a remote server (usually a virtual server) with dedicated computing resources available to your WordPress instance. This is sometimes called “VPS hosting” or even “cloud hosting”, when the hosting vendor refers to their own hosting environment as a “cloud” (which may be accurate if they are using virtualization technology—but it is not a public cloud like AWS). In this model the hosting provider typically provides higher assurance of uptime, performance and security, and more advanced operational features.

Public cloud hosting: Hosting WordPress on a cloud like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. Compared to the other models, this is a type of middle ground between on-premise and traditional hosting. On the one hand, the cloud provider assumes complete responsibility for the hardware, and provides advanced functionality related to uptime, security and availability. On the other hand, the user is completely responsible for the software they deploy on the cloud. They also need to build their own configuration for scalability, availability and security using an array of products and services on the cloud provider’s ecosystem.

The following table illustrates the difference between these four hosting models:

     Low Flexibility Medium Flexibility High Flexibility
Low Complexity Shared Hosting Dedicated/Managed Hosting     
Medium Complexity     On-Premise Hosting    
High Complexity         Public Cloud Hosting

WordPress on the Cloud: Key Considerations

  • Technical expertise: Running WordPress on a public cloud requires a higher level of technical expertise than ordinary remote hosting or on-premise hosting. Starting a machine on Amazon EC2 is relatively easy, but managing that machine and getting the right software and configuration in place can be complex.
  • Security: Security is a prime concern on the public cloud. Of course on-premise servers are prone to attack, as are WordPress hosting services. But on the public cloud, because of the complexity and distributed nature of the infrastructure, there are more possibilities for misconfiguration and mismanagement that can open security backdoors for attackers. To learn more about securing websites on the cloud, see Pantheon’s detailed guide—based on our experience hosting over 100,000 WordPress and Drupal sites on public cloud infrastructure.
  • Scalability, uptime, and availability: The biggest promise of the cloud is the ability to provision more computing resources in order to scale up your site, and/or ensure that it stays up and available in case of high loads, technical issues, disaster, etc. Doing this on your own in a cloud like Amazon EC2 can be very difficult. There are numerous tools and services that make it easier, but there is a learning curve and typically also a cost involved in deploying these technologies.
  • Migration: Migrating an existing WordPress to the cloud can be simple, if the site is self-contained and has no dependencies on external systems. However, if your WordPress setup consists of more than one server, or has interfaces or dependencies on external components, you will probably need to refactor your system to make it work on the public cloud. For example, if up until now your server connected to a database using a specific IP, on the cloud that IP will change every time you fire up a new machine image.
  • Costs: Public clouds typically charge a per-hour rate for the computing resources you use. You can choose from a number of machine instance “sizes”, each with a different set of CPU/memory resources, and pay more per hour the larger the size. On Amazon EC2, for example, you can run a basic instance for free for a year, and other clouds also offer similar options. But when you start paying, the cost of a cloud server will typically be significantly higher than traditional hosting.

Cloud Hosting—How Pantheon Can Help

Pantheon is an enterprise-grade WordPress hosting service that runs on the public cloud. Using the power of the cloud, Pantheon can scale you from a tiny site with no traffic to “internet famous” in seconds. We do it with an automated container-based platform that runs on “bare metal” cloud infrastructure, and is an order of magnitude faster than the traditional virtualized cloud machine instances.

Pantheon provides the benefits you expect from the cloud—automatic scaling, high performance and high availability—without the complexity of hosting WordPress yourself on a service like Amazon EC2. Unlike other hosting services, we provide advanced DevOps and workflow automation features to support a modern development process. So you can develop like the big boys, as if you were on your own local server, with all infrastructure matters taken care of. That’s what the cloud was supposed to give us.



Try Pantheon for free to experience the power of auto-scaling on the cloud, unmatched performance, security and other enterprise features, including a modern, collaborative development workflow.

Learn more about the fastest hosting platform on the planet: The Pantheon Web Hosting Platform.

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