Some sleuthing was due, when I was told by several people in the industry that AWS isn’t a good idea for a WordPress or SMB website. Some of those people were marketers and some were developers or even bloggers like me. I began to wonder if it's just word of mouth, or if there's some truth in this repeated claim. Since I’ve got no bias towards or against AWS, (seeing I’m not their legal heir or anything and I’m not paid by them) I set out to find out why, in order to write a fair article. This one took me a while, because I was confused by the conflicted opinions coming from everywhere, and digging out facts wasn’t as simple at all, in the midst of all the mixed reviews. However, I did get all the facts straight, so here it goes!
How much will hosting affect page load speed and SEO?
Whether AWS is good enough or not is secondary. The first thing I need to clear out is why it needs to be good. I’m not trying to make you feel like this is a Hosting For Dummies article, but these are things several people, (including myself) forget to acknowledge or realise:
- It’s time to ditch shared servers if you really wish to amp up the loading speed. We’ve mentioned in our previous blog post, how users expect pages to load in two seconds or less. In this case, depleting your resources and not having complete control over your server will definitely lead to more server down-time and slow speed. Guarantee. VPS (Virtual Private Servers) and Cloud Servers or a combination of both are what people are rapidly going towards. With more dedicated services, you can take control over server power usage and distribution and manage available HDD space for applications. Shared servers are turning into the “button phone” of this era.
- It will affect SEO and this is how: Google has announced that page-load speed has been added to its ranking algorithms, and since then, load-speed has been synonymous with SEO. And of course, this is being discussed, because AWS gives you your own personal cloud server space… and of course, there are pros and cons we’ll just discuss.
So let’s cut to the chase and ask a developer
I asked the same question to Haseeb Ilyas, who’s had years of experience as a WordPress developer. Here’s what he had to say:
A.K: Why isn’t AWS suitable for a WordPress website?
H. I: First of all, that’s a close-ended question, which is hard to answer. If you really want an answer to that, I’d say that because there are simply other options to choose from that fit your business’ individual needs. It is doable and there’s no big reason, aside from one difficulty- people don’t use it and aren’t familiar with its working and interface- that can be daunting. There are many other alternatives.
A.K: What are those alternatives?
H.I WP Engine, Google Cloud, GoDaddy. AWS has some outstanding features and services, like AMI and most of all, a kind of like image- a reputation. That works in its favour. WP Engine gives you full control This full control means a lot of developer tools, making it easier to maintain the websites and being able to use Google Cloud Platform, giving access to all Google related services. Using Google Cloud Computing services as a host has been a great plus point. They’re paying Google for every second of traffic. If it’s recommended for enterprise level hosting provides, WP Engine is a great option as their data manager as well.
A.K: So getting to the meat ‘n potatoes of the issue- why do you think AWS isn’t suitable for WordPress websites?
H.I: Another close-ended question! Okay firstly, it’s feature-heavy to a dizzying extent, when your requirements are more focused and streamlined. Customisation can be a pain if you don’t have a team to help you.. Amazon’s got dozens of products, it’s hard for even a developer to keep up with them… but it wasn’t specially designed for WordPress, so there may be a chance there will be things you may not find. There are many other hosting platforms with features to suit your business needs. If you’re unsure about your business needs, you can have a free consultation with Computan or consult your own developers to determine them.
Secondly, a developer won’t be able to do the every-day developer stuff through the console if he hasn’t used AWS before. He will have to go through extra steps. For a non-technical guy or a developer totally used to something else, it will be really hard to manage AWS hosting. If you want to restart your server, you’ll have to hire someone just for that. You’ll find yourself looking for a third party on Freelancer or Fiver to look for a developer for one, simple task. Cloudways is another host that has staff hired to manage all the technical stuff. They won’t charge until a specific bandwidth is reached.
Thirdly, AWS’s perhaps only legit con is that it does not offer support. You’ll have to hire someone on your own to deal with the slightly different (I won’t say complex) platform.
A.K: Does WordPress’ original purpose as a blog or its previous versions have any impact over its current capacity? I’m talking from a technical perspective- load balancing or scaling, etc.
H.I: Wordpress.com is highly capable of balancing the capacity of WordPress traffic of every website hosted with them. WordPress has managed it in the best manner possible, as they transitioned. What WordPress has done for their own website, like capacity or load balancing, they have done their best. They’re secure, and they’ve taken all the measures. WP VIP is their own enterprise Wordpress solution, which is highly secure!
It’s a misconception that it’s not compatible or suitable. It’s just that you need to know how to handle it.
A.K: What kind of websites/businesses could actually qualify for benefiting from AWS?
H.I *sighs* Why don’t people accept that AWS hosting is one of the best out there, despite its hurdles? It’s like a cost/reward analysis. If the great hosting is costing you a lot of time or resources, you ditch it. But just because it wasn’t suitable for you, it doesn’t mean you start defaming the poor host. Let me explain why people think it’s bad- it’s just not easy to manage.
When it comes to using a hosting manager, there are three big names that come up- C-panel, Parallel and Plesk. Parallels is the company. Plesk is the software that’s used by the hosting providers as a software management solution that makes it a lot easier to use, if you had to do it manually through their operating system. It’s a little technical to work with.
The interface used by AWS isn’t something they are used to or accustomed to. Adding a file is a simple process normally, but for AWS, it’s a lengthy process. You have to purchase a license if you want to install C-Panel on AWS. On the back-end, it’s different to use AWS than others, and developers aren’t accustomed to it. It takes a few extra steps to add a file, as compared to other providers. But AWS comes with extra security, etc too. So again, it’s our cost/reward analysis at work.
For enterprise level it’s excellent. They won’t lack for in anything. They need all the load balancing. In AWS you can have traffic rules, firewall, everything. It gives you full control over security. But, if you’re a consumer/user and you want to register a clothing website, you’ll just have to purchase a hosting service. You’ll never prefer AWS because you’ve seen that it’s technical. You don’t know how to use a console, you may not know how to upload files. You’ll never think about AWS. On the other hand, if you want to manage multiple websites, you'll have to look into great cloud hosting services like AWS.
A.K: Wow. Okay. So, what, in your opinion, gives AWS its name, beside it being a famous rain-forest and e-store?
H.I: AWS has an AMI- a kind of like image- a reputation. That means it’s got a clone of an operating system. Snapshot. Your Linux or Windows OS machine also have these snapshots. There is an AMI(snapshot) available for WordPress installs, within AWS and that’s called Veitnami Stack. If you install that, your problems with AWS will be gone, because the problem that we recently faced in the previous era (we were having problems in hosting WP based websites on AWS) has been fixed, because now, AWS has introduced this. Now, can you can install it on your hosting system, and have your back-ups easily accessible.
A.K: So if a developer throws a tantrum about not having AWS installed, it may just be because it’ll be hard for them?
H.I Well, can’t speak for everyone, but if I were them, I surely would never want to get out of my comfort zone all of a sudden!
A.K Speaking of cost/rewards, I’ve heard people ranting about how AWS is too expensive and not suitable for small businesses. How far is that true?
H.I Seriously? AWS has plans for as low as $3 per month! Look into the official pricing before you start saying it’s too expensive! Maybe it was in the beginning, but people should move forward already.
A.K: Shared hosting is troublesome, but migrating to Cloud or Private Server, and especially to to AWS can be more troublesome. Why?
H.I First, let’s understand why people change to another server or hosting provider. People actualy switch from shared hosting to better hosting or they switch to a different shared hosting, because they don’t get the level of access or the server up-time, speed or services they need. If you're facing any of those problems, you should migrate now! Shared hosting comes with problems, like for GoDaddy, all emails go through a load-balancer or rather, email relay server called DedRelay, which is common on any shared hosting. There’s always a limit, like 1000 emails per day, and if you want to send newsletters, you’d be limited. WordPress requires the latest versions, and they’ll have to request for that properly so they could upgrade their softwares, but the reply could be “this is a shared hosting and we can’t update it because all the other people are using an outdated version of PHP).” This is a limitation. People migrate to different hosting providers. Cloudways, Digital Ocean are good options for WordPress.
Now, coming back to your question- the reason it can be troublesome, you have to extract all the content from current hosting. And then for migrating it can- you’ll have to hire a new developer, and since AWS doesn’t offer any support, it’ll be mandatory to deal with all the migration on your own. It doesn’t provide free migration services like others. On this account, you’re right. AWS can be more troublesome. There’s also the risk of loss of data. Sometimes, data transfers fail if you are not an expert. The data loss risks are always there. It’s always recommended that you hire someone who knows their stuff. Migrating from Bluehost to GoDaddy and vice-versa is easier, but you’d still have to hire a technical guy for AWS.
A.K Can a website crash because of mismanagement of AWS? How common is site crashing due to mismanagement of hosting services?
H.I Any website can crash because of mismanagement, including AWS, if someone who thinks they can manage it (but can’t really) handles it. Mismanagement of configuration can lead to crashing. Let me tell you how-
If I exceed the storage capacity by even one GB, my system would crash all the time, because I don’t have more ram than the value I input, and my operating system needs enough space to process other tasks which are running in the background. If I assign all my available memory to PHP, it crashes, because you assigned the wrong value to your RAM. My memory is already 57% in usage, and if I assigned 100%, it will crash. Sometimes, a website owner asks their web developer to optimize it and increase the value. After some time, it keeps crashing and even developers (or people who were managing it) might not know what’s going on). For the values which are directly linked to hardware consumption, if a wrong value is assigned, it will crash during high traffic time, as the bandwidth would increase and after some time, if it’s reached its limit, sometimes, PHP consumes a lot of memory and doesn’t leave space for processers to be managed. Overall, that’s a nightmare scenario.
A.K: Is there anything particularly AWS related that can lead to crashing?
H.I: Yes, AWS allows the webmasters to change the server-side directives and configuration through SSH console (such as PHP memory, limit, max execution, timeout) which could lead to server issues if configured incorrectly and that leaves it in a state where unoptimized applications can consume all server memory and result in server crash issues.
Upon asking one of Computan’s clients about why they didn’t choose AWS…
Client: The primary reason seemed to be cost. Their AWS environment is pretty pricey, and the person who is helping us transition the website seemed to find WPEngine very appealing. I gave him access into the account so that he would be able to find what he needed in case there was anything missing from the backup I sent over. The other reason is the benefit of not needing support from their IT team to run updates or fix problems, since WPEngine has 24/7 support built in and also they have us to assist with it. It’s our preferred hosting platform.
Is AWS really not suitable for your WordPress website?
One of the best things about AWS is its capacity for scaling. So, if you’ve got great visions for your website and can deal with the challenges (like finding third party support and being careful with migration), then AWS can actually fit your needs. If another, popular service fits your needs, go for it! Confused? Go for a consultation. Just keep in mind that migration isn’t the easiest and most convenient thing to do, though. So make your decision carefully, with a lot of forethought.