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Solve Every Website Admin Headache with WPEngine – Part 2 – My Journey to WPEgine (An Admin Pilgrim’s Progress)

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Now that I’ve introduced you to how WPEngine solves every website admin headache I’m going to give a little story about my experience here. If you’ve ever been to a Pentecostal or a Bible meeting it is going to sound like I am standing and giving testimony because I once was lost and now I’m found. That’s the kind of feeling that I have now that I’ve moved to WPEngine.

As you can imagine my website is absolutely mission critical. Most of you who are here have paid to get access to content on the site and having paid you need it when you need it. I can’t afford to have downtime on my site.

I can’t afford to be hacked. I can’t afford to have my site explode during upgrades. My site needs to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Kind of like the way I work and that is my first and foremost concern when I think about hosting BYOBWebsite.

Transition from Simple to Complex Site

I started off 5 years ago hosting the site at Bluehost for 4 bucks a month and that worked fine for the first 6 months or so. But as the site started gaining attraction and as it became more complex it began to run too slowly. This was especially noticeable when I switched to Wishlist Member and when I added the forum the site

Problems When I Moved to a vps.net

I didn’t know much about virtual private servers but I bought the marketing hype of vps.net and figured well, I could probably afford to take it up to 29 bucks a month because the site speed is important to me. So I spent 30 bucks a month on a virtual private server and it turned out that my site ran slower at vps.net than it did on Bluehost.

So I started adding resources and it wasn’t until I spent $165 a month at vps.net that my site ended up being as fast as it was on my $4 a month purchase at Bluehost. On top of that, that my site was down for about a week in that first month. There was literally a 7/24 hour segment during the month that I was with them that my site was entirely down and unavailable to any of my members. So that was a bit of a catastrophe.

Moving to a VPS at InMotion Hosting

In that process I met a young system administrator who helped me fix those problems on vps.net but I was so fed up with them that I wanted to move. So I moved to inMotion hosting with the system administrator who administrated my VPS at inMotion hosting.

At that point I pretty well decided that what I wanted to accomplish was going to cost me way more than $30 a month. I had a $150 a month VPS hosting bill at inMotion hosting and then I paid Anthony $80 an hour or something like that to configure the server the way I needed it to be configured and to solve server issues for me while I was at inMotion hosting.

About a year later it became clear that the hosting packages at inMotion hosting were not optimized for the needs that I had on my site. I was using both SimplePress forum and Wishlist Member and at the time both of those were huge resource hogs.

Moving to a Private Server

They required a great deal of memory and I didn’t need a huge amount of bandwidth and I didn’t need a huge amount of storage or CPUs but I needed a ton of memory and I couldn’t get that kind of a hosting deal with anybody in order to optimize the performance of my site so Anthony set me up with a private server.

Now, at that point I’m paying $285 a month for hosting. Let me go back to inMotion hosting for a moment. Anthony did improve the speed of the site by setting up properly W3 Total Cache which I was simply not capable of doing.

I needed somebody to understood servers in order to set that up. I backed my site using BackupBuddy and VaultPress which still advertises continuous backups but in fact, the site still could go down during an upgrade and did go down during a couple of upgrades. The VaultPress backup system failed entirely.

In fact, it failed so badly that I lost quite a bit of data there during that incident and my BackupBuddy backup was like a week old so I lost a week’s worth of membership data and sales data which at the time was pretty painful to lose. I had to go back and recreate those things. So I didn’t meet my mission critical need at all and so Anthony set me up on a private server that had two different types of caching.

Again he optimized W3 Total Cache and then he also overlaid that with a server-based caching so I essentially had a server with all the CPU cores and all the memory that I absolutely needed in the configuration that I needed them in rather than in a configuration that they would come in from a regular supplier.

He configured it so it backed up every single hour and the site could go down anyway during an upgrade. It did go down, in fact, on some upgrades so it got to the point where what I really needed to do was use a Sandbox site to test an upgrade on before I would go ahead and do it on my live site.

My site was huge by that time so setting up a Sandbox site for my site really required me to have Anthony do it for me because it was very time consuming otherwise to take a gigabyte of files and data and turn that into a Sandbox site.
Well, it got to the point where I couldn’t upgrade Wishlist Member because if I upgraded it my site went down. I couldn’t upgrade SimplePress Forum because if I did that my site went down. The result was that I couldn’t upgrade WordPress because the most modern versions of WordPress at the time, 3.9 I guess it was, broke both SimplePress and Wishlist Member.

So 8 months I was stuck with a situation where I couldn’t upgrade and it was a total pain in the rear end to try and fix and solve that problem. It didn’t have good server logs where I could see where the problem was and I just wasn’t able to figure out what was causing the problem in that upgrade process on a Sandbox testing site.

On top of that I had a persistent problem of my emails going into spam because the Google servers had some problem with the IP address serving and I had this problem consistently.

So I had these problems that I couldn’t solve and just about at that time Anthony took on a bunch of partners and they developed a big hosting company out of it. My price for hosting went way down to $165 a month but I no longer had Anthony as support.

Now I had their standard tech support guy who didn’t know my site at all, didn’t know of me from Adam and didn’t even know I was running on WordPress. I know enough about all this that I only need support when something is really not working right and is beyond my ordinary ability to problem solve. The support was not sufficient to justify $165 a month because what I was really paying for was instant access to Anthony to solve my problems when I needed them solved and I’d lost that.

Why I Moved to WPEngine

So I started looking around and I decided to give WPEngine a try because a couple of members here had already gone there. I’d helped somebody migrate a site to WPEngine. I helped them work on their site on WPEngine and I started to see the benefits. I imagined that the benefits of WPEngine would help me solve my problems.

I was concerned about a couple of things. One, I was concerned that my systems wouldn’t work properly on WPEngine. I was concerned that Wishlist Member and SimplePress and maybe WP eStore might not work properly but I’d seen enough of it that I thought I would give it a try and without any upgrades was simply moving from the old server to WPEngine.

Site Speed

One of my main concerns was the speed of the site because I felt like I was paying a bunch of money to make sure my site was as fast as possible and I was concerned that making the move would slow the site down. I was gratified to see that in fact, making the move didn’t slow the site down at all. My site ran just as fast on WPEngine without W3 Total Cache and without all the extra expense.

Upgrading My Site

So then I decided okay, it’s working just fine let’s see if I can upgrade my site. So I set up the staging server and I upgraded Wishlist Member. It died but the error logs actually showed me why it died and for the first time I had information to be able to debug the things that were causing the conflict. Once I found those things that were causing the conflict I was able to solve that problem.

So fresh with that success I upgraded SimplePress. My site crashed but again because the server logs I was able to identify why my site was crashing and what processes were in conflict which allowed me to solve those problems.

All of a sudden I was able to upgrade to the latest version of WordPress, have all my plugins upgraded and ever since then I have always been able to have the latest versions of everything running without having any problems whatsoever and now I’ve been at it for 8 months.

The site has been running fine, the site has never gone down since then and I’ve never had a problem updating plugins or WordPress or anything so it’s been spectacular. And that’s why I wanted to teach this. A couple of times a week I hear one of my members say well, I haven’t upgraded because I was afraid to so I know that there are a bunch of people listening to this are in the same situation.

You’re afraid to upgrade or update a plugin or update WordPress because of the havoc that it may wreak if things go sideways and I can tell you this solves that problem. And even if things do go sideways the ability to go back to restore to a place where everything is hunky-dory is slam dunk simple.

So, that’s my story with WPEngine, why I am delighted with them and why I am happy to advocate its use and why I’m demonstrating this to you today.

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