Behind The Scenes: Evaluating WordPress Hosts

One of the big obstacles to developing WordPress plugins is the wide variety of hosts on which they will run.  Each host deploys WordPress a little differently.  And those differences can sometimes cause subtle maddening quirks in the operations of plugins.

Some ways in which host environments might vary are:

  • PHP Versions
  • Default Caching Plugins
  • Maybe Varnish is installed. Or not.
  • Maybe Nginx is installed. Or not.
  • Logs may be in the default location.  Or not.

At the same time, we have a need to spin up and tear down test environments on a regular basis.

So, a few years ago we decided that we would deploy the majority of our test environments at a commercial WordPress hosting provider.  While most developers will test their code on local machines and implement their quality control environments on in-house servers, we figured that we could learn a lot by placing our QA environment on commercial sites for an extended period of time.  This helps us to understand how the real-world environments our customers are exposed to would react to our code – and expose any quirks the hosting environment might cause sooner rather than later.

So each year we choose one commercial host and deploy most of our testing and QA environments there.

  • For our 2016-2017 development season we deployed our QA environments on WP Engine (
  • For 2017-2018 it was done on Flywheel (
  • For our 2018-2109 season our choice is Cloudways (

A Little Bit Different

WP Engine And Flywheel have developed their service to appeal to the average non-technical WordPress user.  It is relatively easy to deploy a new site and you have a few toggles and switches to make the most common things happen without too much fuss.

Cloudways on the other hand, appeals to the power-user with a bit of technical chops.  You can create a dedicated server and deploy WordPress on it with a few clicks.  In many ways you have a lot more control over the WordPress environment – including the ability to deploy “unlimited” sites on one virtual server. And you can do all that without having to deal with managing the entire server and all the headaches that comes with that responsibility.

For a poweruser this is great because for 10 bucks you can get a decently performing environment that is better than the cheapest plan (or even some of the more expensive plans) at WP Engine or Fly Wheel.  Flywheel will cost 100.00 per month or so to deploy 10 sites.  At Cloudways it would cost 10 or 20 – as long as you’ve got the requisite basic technical background to manage them.

Given all these benefits, we figured it would be time to take Cloudways out for a spin.  Hence, it is our provider of choice over the next 12 months for QA, demonstration sites and rapid deployments and tear-downs.

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