The Advent of the Website Management Platform

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Consider the typical tasks involved when deploying your WordPress or Drupal website to a new web host…

  1. Sign-up and create a new environment.
  2. If you’re using a dedicated or virtual server, install and/or configure a web server, PHP, MySQL and other dependencies.
  3. Create a new database with a user ID and password.
  4. Upload several megabytes of application code.
  5. Edit the application’s configuration parameters.
  6. Run the installer process.
  7. Upload, install and configure third-party themes and plugins.
  8. Add your content.
  9. Test. Swear. Hit your keyboard. Fix the problems. Repeat testing again.
  10. Redo the whole process for your test, staging and production environments.

And then your problems really start…

  • Updates can be difficult to deploy everywhere
  • A traffic spike caused by a popular article or advertising campaign can bring the server to a halt at the worst possible moment
  • A DoS attack can be catastrophic for every site hosted on the same environment
  • The website is difficult to scale as you grow
  • Hardware and software updates can cause outages or compatibility problems.

The process may be manageable for a couple of installations but consider hosting a few dozen websites – or thousands. Managing multiple WordPress or Drupal sites is time-consuming, tedious, error-prone and prevents you away working on tasks which add real value.

Can Cloud Hosting Help?

To some extent, yes. However, cloud hosting typically requires one or more separate virtual machines for every site. VMs are large, expensive and still rely on significant hardware resources to scale effectively. The traditional approach to scaling also requires considerable manual intervention by systems administrators or DevOps. Modern Infrastructure-as-a-Service providers such as AWS and Rackspace make it easy to provision new VMs to handle additional workload but someone, somewhere needs to stitch those additional servers together. Deployment takes time – and that may be too late for your traffic spike.

Step One to Saving Your Sanity: Use Version Control

If you’re not using version control it’s time to start. Git is a great choice but any solution is better than none. Version control can be used to create a stable deployment process to improve your workflow. Ideally:
Team members will have access to their own, separate development environments which allow them to update or create new features on separate code branches.

Content – such as your WordPress pages, posts and images – are synchronized from the live environment to all development and staging systems. The team can then work against an accurate snapshot of reality which is critical for a full understanding of the system.
Automated quality-assurance tests ensure new code is tested prior to deployment. It should be impossible for problematic features to reach the live server.

Step Two: Consider a Website Management Platform

A what? Website Management Platforms are a new concept. They’re similar to cloud-based Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) hosts such as Heroku or Cloud Foundry. However, a WMP is purpose-built for a specific application such as WordPress and Drupal rather than a development environment such as PHP or Ruby.


The leader in this field is Pantheon, a company that implements hosting and scaling in a new way. Rather than rely on heavy VMs, sites are constructed on lightweight containers abstracted from the OS and hardware. Only the application is included – not the whole guest OS, PHP, MySQL or other dependencies. WordPress and Drupal applications can then be managed from Pantheon’s dashboard.

Pantheon has created an infrastructure named the “Runtime Matrix”. This executes your site’s code across hundreds of powerful servers which serve millions of containers. Intelligent routing, load balancing and advanced caching and security services are included as standard. The service also includes Pantheon Content Base which manages databases, files and version control more effectively.

Pantheon’s Website Management Platform has a number of advantages including:

1. Fast Provisioning

Containers are provisioned using software which means they can be added or removed very quickly. Idle sites, such as development containers, are effectively deactivated until a new request is made. The largest websites in the world — like Google, Facebook and Twitter — are managed through software, not by manually adding and configuring new VM’s, servers and services. Software-based provisioning removes human error and greatly increases the speed of new services coming on line. A Website Management Platform quickly provisions all the required services so sites can scale out quickly to handle peak loads with minimal human intervention.

2. High Availability

High availability means guaranteed uptime even when services fail. One compelling aspect of Website Management Platforms is the ability to handle redirection of traffic and service requests to known working services for code execution, content requests, db…. The multi-tenant, high-availability values introduced by, gmail and Heroku are now finding their way into website management, where a dedicated team of platform engineers deliver services that most companies would not be able to build and manage on their own.

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Would love to use this service, it’s just a shame they charge so much for one website, woe betide if you need SSL…

This isn’t a service for anyone with customers whose budgets are less than a years hosting on this platform alone. Which is a shame as i’d love to use it.

There is a free trial and the smallest plan is $25 per month. You can get cheaper, but it’s comparable to a dedicated server without the hassle that incurs.

Their personal plan is on par with other managed hosting solutions. This isn’t for everyone. However, WordPress hosting needs to grow beyond cowboy coding on a production box. Glad Pantheon, WP Engine, Flywheel and others make it easy to set up development and staging environments. Saves us tons of time, and saves our clients tons of money.

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