Folks often ask us how we run the ourtour.co.uk blog. Here’s the answer.
The ourtour.co.uk blog’s now over 5 years old, is more than 20GB in size, gets over 20,000 unique visitors a month and dishes out 400,000 pages a month. And that’s all done from a shared server provided by Hostgator.com (their Hatching plan), which costs roughly £3.50 a month, not bad going. This post gives a little more detail on how we use WordPress, and why we’ve come to value the Hostgator service enough to recommend it to you.
Please be aware: if you sign up to Hostgator using the discount coupons on this page (like the one below), they will give us a commission, which I will probably, ahem, spend on beer.
What is WordPress?
Just for clarity: WordPress is a content management system (CMS), typically used to make it easier to develop and maintain blogs, but it can be used for non-blog websites too. As you can see in the graphic on the left, it makes editing web content as simple as using a word processor. It comes in two forms:
- WordPress.com is an all-in-one solution, which gives you both the WordPress CMS, and a hosting platform. If you use this, which can be done for free if you accept some limitations, then you don’t need Hostgator or any other host like 1&1 and so on.
- Alternatively, you can download the WordPress code, and run it on a server you lease yourself, such as one provided by Hostgator.
We opted for option 2, which enabled us to make whatever changes we wanted to the site, mainly as I’m from an IT background and I wanted to play around with it. Later on, after making various daft mistakes which nearly crippled the whole thing several times (with great power comes great responsibility), we found the added flexibility useful. It means we can place ads as we want to, lay the site out any way we please, and it is also cheaper than using WordPress.com for a site this large.
What is Hostgator?
Hostgator is a web hosting provider. Basically they have data centres full of servers which they rent out to people wanting to run their websites and email servers on them. Without using a company like Hostgator, you’d have to run your own physical server, which would mean buying the server, having somewhere secure to store it, paying for it to be connected to the internet, securing it against hackers and so on. For most small companies or bloggers, it’s not cost effective to do that.
Although it is possible to rent out a dedicated virtual server (think of it as a ‘slice’ of a physical server), smaller sites like ours can be run on the lower cost shared platforms. As we only use a single domain (ourtour.co.uk), we’ve managed to run the site on their lowest cost hosting platform, although we may need to consider upgrading at some point as traffic keeps growing.
Why do we Recommend HostGator?
This is why:
- They’re cheap.
- They’re reliable.
- WordPress installs and runs nicely on their servers.
- They have few restrictions on storage size, mailboxes, bandwidth and so on.
- They have a nice bug-logging system, so you don’t have to phone them for support and can track how well issues have been sorted.
- They use the standard cPanel admin interface which works well.
And What’s Gone Wrong?
Not much to be honest:
- The site was deliberately taken offline a couple of times by Hostgator as a plug-in we’d installed was using too much server resources, killing the other websites running on the same server. They helped us resolve this and it’s not happened for a couple of years.
- They stopped backing-up the site when it hit 20GB. We found vaulpress.com did a fantastic job of backing up the site, for an additional £4 a month. We’ve used this to restore a few times when theme updates have gone wrong, and it’s worked a treat every time.
- Emails sent by the subscribe2 plug-in stopped working when we hit over 500 subscribers, due to a 500 emails an hour limit in the Ts and Cs which we’d missed. After much faffing about with tools which should spread out the emails over a few hours, we gave up and moved to mailchimp.com. As we now send weekly rather than per-post emails, this is free.
So that’s it really. We’ve installed and run WordPress a fair few times (for other websites) on another host (as the clients insisted on the other host) in the past 3 years, and HostGator remains our preference.