About a year ago, I moved all my three WordPress sites to a VPS due to two issues on a shared hosting plan:
- Poor reliability; and
- Automatically-generated e-mails were inadvertently regarded as spam by e-mail services.
The move to a VPS gave a noticeable boost in performance and reliability, and I was generally happy with the results for about six months. My sites’ traffic increased considerably and visitors/users were given a better experience.
However, from about June 2012, the server suffered downtime that lasted anything from a few minutes (which I can tolerate) to about 20 hours (unacceptable!). These episodes happened about once a month, but the final straw was two prolonged periods of downtime in December, two weeks apart and which lasted about 20 hours each. (I didn’t lose a single member from my membership site during this month, which is really quite remarkable.) To make matters worse, the response from the VPS hosting provider was nonchalant with a tinge of arrogance.
I had earlier already decided to make a switch to a different VPS host, so the two incidents in December just pushed me to do something that I really should have done months earlier.
The VPS migration happened on New Year’s Eve, i.e., 31 December 2012. It was seamless, real easy. But the initial joy of having a VPS with guaranteed uptime and decent speed did not last long. Yesterday, I learnt (the hard way) that the plugin software driving my membership site was not sending out automatically-generated e-mails after customers had paid for their product. This tends to be a bad thing because it means service recovery from then on. Definitely not good for business!
I also noticed that WordPress would ask for my FTP credentials whenever I wanted to install a plugin:
To perform the requested action, WordPress needs to access your web server. Please enter your FTP credentials to proceed. If you do not remember your credentials, you should contact your web host.
Entering my FTP credentials would lead to successful installation of the plugin, but I suspected that the underlying problem was also causing the membership site to stop sending out automatic e-mails. The latter cannot be done by manually entering FTP credentials. Besides, it’s impractical to enter FTP credentials whenever someone purchased a product.
So I contacted KnownHost Support in the early hours of this morning to explore my options. “Eric” told me that the issue was related to Apache running PHP scripts with DSO PHP handler:
Installation/upgrade of WordPress plugins is not possible with DSO without using FTP login details. It is possible with SuPHP.
The problem with SuPHP is inability to use PHP caching extensions, such as eAccelerator and XCache, translating to slower sites. The main benefit of SuPHP for me was the ability to get my WordPress sites fully functional, but SuPHP is also supposedly more secure than DSO (Dynamic Shared Object).
I didn’t like the idea of slower sites, so we tried
chmod 777 to a number of directories and their contents. But this did not resolve the issue.
I eventually relented and requested a change of the PHP handler to SuPHP. Eric did this in less than five minutes, and, like magic, all three WordPress sites regained full functionality.
The entire exercise—from the time I submitted my “High Priority” ticket to when the sites were running on SuPHP—took about 90 minutes. A pretty responsive support desk (!), and a far cry from the service I was receiving from my previous VPS host.
It has only been a few days since I changed my VPS hosting provider but my experience with KnownHost has been nothing short of excellent. I cannot recommend them more highly.
On the downside, my sites have taken a noticeable performance hit with the switch to SuPHP, so I’ll need to spend time addressing this issue. I tried several tactics today in an effort to improve loading times—the only thing that seems to have helped is replacing the W3 Total Cache plugin with the WP Super Cache plugin for epiguru.com. For some inexplicable reason, the CDN plugin that works with WP Super Cache breaks my other site (tehandassociates.com). More work is needed before I get the site speeds back up to what they were before.