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Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Considerations for Hosting a Wordpress vs Static Site

Many website builders turn to Wordpress for a simple blogging solution, but there are some hosting considerations that can potentially cause problems at some point that many are unaware of. There is a trade off between ease of website building and the consequences of the increased server load that people ought to be aware of.

While not too serious and often dismissed by many, some concerns over hosting sites on a CMS platform like Wordpress are very real. So this article takes a look at these in relatively simple terms that can be easily understood.

CMS versus Static Site Build


There is an ongoing debate over which kind of site build is best for certain types of website. There are two basic types, which are often referred to as "static" and the other type which is the "database driven", CMS (Content Management System) or "interactive" or simply "blog"

Most people are not so technical that they could be bothered with the rather steep learning curve that comes with coding a static website in HTML/CSS. So most opt for the easy way out and simply install Wordpress on every new domain they buy. This is mostly prevalent in Internet Marketers who are looking to make money by increasing their traffic through various methods.

But is it the right thing to do and is it the best thing to do? Let's look at the differences.

Static Site


A static website is easy enough to define, since it consists of a set of "flat" files that are hard coded in HTML and are created individually and manually by the webmaster as needed. A template is often used to ensure all pages are created with the same basic layout and color scheme, so all that is generally needed when adding new pages is to copy/paste the text from a word processor and fill in the spaces and other formatting with "tags".

Static sites typically have a low server load as pages load very fast thanks to minimal processing required server side when a visitor opens a page on the site. With no active database and associated processing required, this is an efficient solution for hosting on a small, low resource server.

A big upside to static sites is their lack of database, meaning there is not that aspect of a site for hackers to attack, which seems to be an on-going battle between CMS based sites and those that try to infiltrate sites and inject malware or steal information.

Database Driven Site


Wordpress sites typically consist of a user front end that they must log into with a password so they can add posts and embellish their site with themes that can be chosen from a wide selection along with software plugins for a huge variety of functionality. These sites are driven by software that utilizes a mysql database for storing and accessing data.

This kind of site has a higher server load because much more processing is needed server side when a visitor lands on a page and opens it in their browser. Depending on the extent of additional software from plugins, page load time is generally slower than static pages and can get slower the more "bloat" is added from more processor hungry plugins.

An added concern is the apparent relentless pursuit by hackers for a crack in a database driven site's defenses through which they can gain access to your site, its database and the data contained in it. There are many plugins that can be used to increase security, but these add extra bloat that increases processing and further slow sites down.

When All is Right With the World


When things are going fine, the balance of power definitely goes to Wordpress installs over static sites for things like user interactivity, quick and easy site build and embellishment and tech-free content posting. Wordpress is relatively easy to learn and is accessible by even the most technically challenged of website owner. Score one for ease of use!

Static sites, on the other hand are more "hands-on" when it comes to updating, embellishing and maintaining them. If user interactivity is needed (and these days, it seems it is almost compulsory) then specialist coding is required to provide this functionality. Either the webmaster must pay for this or learn to do it for themselves.

When Things Go Wrong


Unfortunately, the domain of the world wide web is rarely so happy feely nice and perfect. Things go wrong and sites go down for one reason or another. Ironically, it is generally the more hands-on static sites that fare better when problems arise than their database driven counterparts.

The reason is pretty obvious when you think of it. With no database to process in order to serve pages to end users, a static site can ride the wave of a slow server without too much of a slow down itself, whereas a database site can hang, causing the visitor to lose patience and reach for the "back" button.

That can mean loss of traffic with the resulting loss of potential sales if the site is monetized in one way or another. What use are all those bells and whistles when a site fails to load?

Moving Hosts


There is another huge gap between static and Wordpress sites when the time comes to move hosts. The spectre of the much feared database move can raise its ugly head and things can go disastrously wrong in a number of ways:

  1. You may no know how to move a database site between hosts, so help will need to be sought. Some hosts like Hostgator are happy to help you move a Wordpress site, although not all are so accommodating.
  2. The database can be corrupt and will not load into its new home. In that case, a backup will be needed, which is fine of you remembered to take a backup before you moved your site, but a fatal blow if you didn't!
  3. The old host might refuse to release your database. This can happen when there is a dispute and you hot-headedly decide to move away from a host because of an issue, only to find the host is not so keen to just let you walk away with your site intact. The author has had this happen to him, where several sites were hosted with a certain provider and following a dispute, the host denied access to the account so I couldn't export my database. Lucky for me, I only had one Wordpress site on there, with the others being static.
  4. Static sites do not need to be moved as such. It is common to keep a live copy of all files on your computer's hard drive that you work on as necessary. So if you need to move a static site to a new host, it is simply a case of uploading those files via FTP and changing nameservers at your registrar. A host cannot hold your static site to ransom as it can with a live database!

Conclusions


The choice between whether to build your website on a static or Wordpress platform is often out of your hands if you don't have the necessary technical know how to write the appropriate code. In such a case, a Wordpress site is the only choice for many users.

However, if you have some coding skills or are keen to learn new ones, there are many benefits to choosing a static platform. The choice then boils down to how much work you are prepared to put into developing and building a site using your skills or leaning new ones.

Whether you choose the ease and user friendliness of Wordpress to build your site with or prefer to roll up your virtual sleeves and get your hands dirty and build a static site is ultimately up to you.

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