I have two mostly text sites that used to get 40-60,000 visitors a month and even after I haven't touched them in 6 years, still pull about 2-3,000. The plan is to updat and add another 8 sites, all heavy content, and this time around more pictures (including allowing visitors to post). While I don't expect more than 100,000 visitors each at max, a couple sites might have the potential to
just take off.
I'm a content guy, so I need hosting that is reliable, stable, and scalable (just in case) while I wrestle with learning Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla, and who knows what else. (Current sites of 2800 and 4800 pages were built in Frontpage, mostly now updated offline in DWCS6).
While most hosts seem to focus on bandwidth & storage, my reading indicates most people run into problems with core and cpu usage, at which point my eyes glaze over, except to note the CMS's seem to take up a lot of those resources.
What I'd like is a host that would let me know when I'm getting close on resources, notify me if I go over, give me the option to move up instead of shutting me down, and make the transition relatively painless. Also, can someone explain why hosts that special in Wordpress charge so much more for less storage & bandwidth than sites that offer it as an install from a library?
For pricing, wpengine is too expensive, until I know the potential. What I'm thinking is a couple of shared hosts in the $10-$20 range.
In the running at this point are siteground, liquidweb, 247-host, arvixe, & stablehost.
Any tips, recommendations, or warnings? Won't go near any EIG hosts
First I recommend you pick a CMS and stick with it. Keeping one secure is challenging enough but managing multiple will likely just lead to problems and security issues. I would add to your list ModX - if looking for a CMS that can scale.
Dedicated platform vendors (ZippyKid, WPEngine, and others) charge more because they are managing the application layer for you. This frees up your time to focus on other issues. At the same time, some platform providers limit what you can install and do -- so there are pro's and con's.
In terms of VPS/Cloud offerings, you will want to ask the host if you can scale vertically -- that is simply add more CPU/RAM without having to undergo a complex migration.
Also, as you move from static to PHP/database driven sites, significantly more resources will be needed. We have a client that pushes millions of hits a day from a 1CPU/1GB ram system - but it is static content only. The main application server is a beast (16 cores/64GB RAM/RAID 10 SSDs). So you will have to pay attention to performance issues as you move from static to dynamic sites.
If your content changes infrequently (less than 1 per hour), consider something like Cloudflare in front of your VPS/Cloud hosting.
Lastly, if you go the VPS/cloud server route, pay attention to what management services are included. You may be responsible for backups, updates and security work on the server - which may not be the case with a shared hosting account or platform as a service provider.
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I suspected something of the sort on the dedicated Wordpress hosts. That's kind of what I'd like, but until I know which, if any, of the sites will start generating income, I really don't want to shell out that kind of money.
Your point about sticking with one CMS is a good one, but since I've never used any of them, and since the some of the sites will have substantially different needs than the others, it seems only fair to try at least Wordpress & Drupal (but that's why I'm thinking two hosts - to spread the resource requirements out.
My major fear with VPS is spending all my time on trying to manage, and not having time to work on content development and work on the site.
For that kind of traffic and dynamic content, you will be starving your disks I/O before CPU. Shared hosting environment will be kind of limiting for your needs. We'd recommend you look for a VPS provider with SSD storage to give you the boost and reliability your requirements needs.
A VPS management is not all that complicated. Setup is a one time thing with occasional maintenance. Then you will focus on your content management. On a shared environment fundamental tools like memcached and monitoring services will not even be allowed to install for not having root access to the server.