We often get asked how we host our WordPress websites. There’s a lot that goes into it, and it’s constantly being refined as we improve processes and assess new tools and services that become available.

So we wanted to share with you a rough outline of the tools we use and the way in which we setup a new WordPress sites.

Everyone has their preferred way of doing their work. We’re not saying this is the best way, but it’s our way, for the moment. It’s always adapting and improving, but as it stands today, this is the outline:

  1. Create a hosting server
  2. Install a server control panel
  3. Setup a WordPress site
  4. Configure LetsEncrypt SSL
  5. Setup email delivery
  6. Setup Shield Pro.

Let’s jump into each in some more detail.

#1 Create a VPS/Cloud Server using DigitalOcean

The biggest decision you’ll make for a WordPress site is the web hosting.

Choosing poorly here will impact every other aspect of your site, in particular site security and performance.

Our preferred approach of web hosting is with a DigitalOcean cloud server (a “Droplet”). There are a few reasons for choosing them:

  • Cost. For only $5/month you get a mighty powerful little cloud server setup in just a few seconds.
  • Ease of use. It’s incredibly easy to spin up a new cloud server and their control panel makes managing cloud servers painless.
  • Performance. On one of our $5 cloud servers, we have 12 WordPress websites running. Each one of them is super fast and each runs incredibly smoothly. These little cloud servers have a lot of juice.
  • Associated services. DigitalOcean comes with many other services within their infrastructure which are easily accessible if we ever need them to complement our sites, such a Space (just like AWS S3)

We can’t overstate how much we’ve come to rely on and actually get a little bit of pleasure when using DigitalOcean. They’re rock-solid reliable, and their support/community are fantastic.

At $5/month per server, and an optional $1/month for automatic server backups for disaster recovery, it’s hard to beat for all the reasons above.

Based on step #2, our server is installed with the latest Ubuntu OS. At the time of setting up the server, you’ll want to refer to the ServerPilot docs on the supported Ubuntu versions before creating a new VPS.

#2 Server Control Panel using ServerPilot

If the cloud server is newly commissioned, you’ll want a control panel that does most of the heavy lifting for you.

Sure, you could install and configure PHP, MySQL and all the other bits yourself, but we prefer to have it all done for us automatically.

The are many options for server control panels now, including the grandaddy of them all, cPanel. But the one we prefer, ServerPilot, has great pricing with simple server management without reaching into everything.

The pricing is quite reasonable, and at the time of writing it’s:

  • $5 / server
  • +$0.5 / site (or “App” as they call it)

Taking our example above of 12 WP sites running on a single DigitalOcean server, this works out at ~$16/month. That’s just over $1/month to host each site on a fast and secure platform.

Here’s 1 of these simple sites, as an example of quickly they run: Fernleaf Systems

With ServerPilot, each site is contained within its own system user, reducing the risk of cross-site contamination, if any 1 site is compromised.

#3 Setup The New WordPress Site Using ServerPilot

Once you’ve setup the ServerPilot control panel on a server, you can immediately start adding new sites – and they even have an automatic installation option for WordPress sites. It’ll automatically create your MySQL databases, too.

See the screenshot below on how we go about creating a new WP site.

A screenshot showing how we typically setup a new WordPress site using ServerPilot

If you follow these steps, you’ll have a brand new WordPress site in a few seconds.

#4 Configure Automatic SSL using LetsEncrypt

Gone are the days of paying for ridiculously expensive SSL certificates and struggling through the convoluted process of installing them.

ServerPilot, as with most control panels now, automates all of this.

This is how to ensure it works correctly and automatically installs the LetsEncrypt certificate:

Step 1: Update the DNS for the website URL to ensure it’s pointing to your server.
Important: If you’re using CloudFlare, you must disable the orange cloud proxy setting for this site domain.

Step 2: Ensure ServerPilot has your full list of domain names configured for your site.

Ensure all your site domains are added.

Step 3: Click to enable AutoSSL in ServerPilot (if it’s not already enabled).

Click to enabled AutoSSL if it’s not already.

Wait a minute or so and refresh the page. As shown above, your domain names will appear in your AutoSSL certificate.

Important: If in step 1 you turned off the CloudFlare proxy for the particular DNS entries, turn it back on after the AutoSSL setup is done.

#5 Configure Email Delivery using Mailgun

We’ve discussed at length the problems of relying on WordPress sites to reliably send emails. If email delivery is important, you should always use a dedicated service to handle this.

We use Mailgun, as it is super simple to setup any new domain for sending emails. We have various articles available to walk you through this, so there’s no need to repeat it here.

#6 Install and Configure Shield Security Pro for WordPress

We install Shield immediately and configure the standard security settings we want by importing them from another site, or using one of our security profiles within iControlWP.

Of course, with 2-factor authentication by email, we had to ensure Item #5 was completed first. After that, we’re off to the races!

And We’re Done!

It really is simple to setup fast, secure WordPress sites.

Of course, if you only have 1 WordPress site to host and manage, this probably isn’t necessary and you may be better off just buying a shared-hosting package.

If you’ve more than a few sites to manage, and you need reliability and performance out-of-the-box, this is one of the easiest ways to go about it.

This is how we run most of our WordPress websites, as well as most other sites we need. Everyone has their unique way of going about setting up a site, of course. How do you do it? Do you have services you use that you love too much to leave behind? Is there any particular server control panel you prefer, or do you like it with a bit more DIY?

Please share with us, and all the readers, the tools and services you use and also your thoughts on what we’ve written about here.

Note: some of the links above are affiliate links, such a DigitalOcean/ServerPilot. We only ever use such links with goods and services we use and whole-heartedly recommend.

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