We Discuss WordPress Performance Linked to Hosting
Nestify got its start in 2016 out of our own hosting and scalability needs. Having spent more than a decade building infrastructure for Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 companies, our team understood performance and uptime engineering very well. We bring that experience to our hosting services and custom solutions for our customers.
The Main Questions of This Week’s Interview
#1 – So Rahul how did you into WordPress and hosting?
#2 – In the WordPress space there are a lot of hosting solutions what are some of the key things that you feel people need to know connected to choosing the right hosting provider?
#3 – What are some of the key differences that Nestify offers to its user?
#4 – In business terms what have been some of the biggest challenges connected to growing Nestify?
#5 – I wonder if you got one or two tips or insights connected to growing a startup in the WordPress ecosystem?
#6 – I wonder if you like to share a major mistake you have made connected to growing Nestify that you feel you can share with the audience?
This Week Show’s Sponsors
Intro: Welcome to the WP-Tonic this week in WordPress and SaaS podcast, where Jonathan Denwood interviews the leading experts in WordPress, eLearning, and online marketing to help WordPress professionals launch their own SaaS.
Jonathan Denwood: Welcome back, folks, to the WP-Tonic this week in WordPress and SaaS. Folks, I’m back from my travels, I came back last night from Stockholm. Andrew’s with me, he’s not totally a hundred percent, but he’s getting there. He’s a bit tired and we have a great guest, I’m going to destroy his name, Rahul Nagare. He’ll put me right about that, but I did pre-warn him, tribe, that I would destroy his name. Nagare, would you like to quickly give us a 20-second intro about yourself to the tribe?
Rahul Nagare: Oh, yeah. So, I’m Rahul. I’m the co-founder and CEO of Nestify. I’ve been doing web hosting since, gee, 2004. That makes me feel so old, but, yeah, hosting is pretty much what I’ve done my whole life and I also like WordPress, that’s where I spend most of my time and I’m happy to be a part of this podcast.
Jonathan Denwood: It’s going to be a great discussion and we’re going to be discussing WordPress hosting. If you discuss hosting or page builders in any podcast, it becomes your most popular one. So, we’re going to be discussing hosting, where hosting is in 2022. I’m going to get Rahul’s perspective about all these plugin purchases from hosting companies, where he thinks hosting is. Then we’re going to just discuss how he built up his company, it’s going to be a great discussion. We’re going to go for a break now; you’ll hear messages from our two main sponsors. We’ll be back in a few moments, folks
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Jonathan Denwood: We’re coming back. I’d like to point out we have some great special offers from our sponsors. We have some great recommendations of WordPress plugins and services that we highly recommend and use ourselves. You can get all these freebies by going to wp-tonic/recommendations. So, Rahul, let’s go straight into it. So, I think you said in your quick introduction, hosting and WordPress, you’ve been doing that from the start of your career, but how did you get into the crazy world of WordPress and, especially hosting, because that’s really bonkers, as far as I’m concerned.
Rahul Nagare: Yeah, it is crazy, isn’t it? So, around the time I got out of college, I was really into Linux and computer networking. I used to have Cisco certifications, we don’t keep up with them anymore, but my first job was web hosting support. Back then it was cPanel, everything was cPanel in 2004. Everyone was doing HTML sites, or then you had Joomla or I’m sure you both remember custom PHP websites built in CodeIgniter, or just some random PHP scripts and they used to have my SQL database, used to get hacked and everything.
Anyway, so that’s what I used to deal with, and more and more, I started to see WordPress websites, people were doing interesting things, memberships, the content management was better, it had a consistent user interface, it worked all the time, so that got me involved in WordPress. And over the years it started growing more and more, the developer community was growing, designer options were better, and around that time, I also started doing hosting for my friends and family.
Jonathan Denwood: Are they still your friends and family?
Rahul Nagare: Not anymore. We don’t talk anymore.
Jonathan Denwood: No.
Rahul Nagare: Yeah. So, I started doing this for my friends and family, and there was enough demand that I decided, let’s just do this full-time, because decent market share is growing, it seemed like the right time to get started.
Jonathan Denwood: All right. Over to you, Andrew.
Andrew Palmer: Yeah, it’s brilliant. Just to be clear, why Jonathan said I’m not a hundred percent, for those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter and or Facebook. I’m just getting over COVID, which I managed to catch when I was in W C E U Portugal. But I’m all good now, apart from a little bit tired, a little bit blocked up and you can hear it. Rahul, getting into hosting, you’re using AWS at the moment and you have a couple of core things that you offer within your WordPress hosting, one is how did you decide that AWS was for you? And in the WordPress space there are a lot of hosting solutions, so what did you see as some of the key things that people wanted out of hosting?
Rahul Nagare: Oh, isn’t that the million-dollar question?
Andrew Palmer: Isn’t it though?
Rahul Nagare: So, I like to say this a lot. The decision of picking the web host is, if you draw that it would be a triangle of speed, support, and cost, and you can only pick two, so either have a fast host that has good support, but it’s not going to be cheap or you can have a cheap host with good enough speed, but the support is non-existent. And if you do find someone that has all three, most likely they’re subsidized with venture capital and you’ll see in the next few months they will either raise the prices on you or the support will go downhill or GoDaddy will acquire them, there are no other options.
Basically, as a consumer, you have to decide which two of the three are important to you, and then, you can’t go wrong with any of the hosting providers out there, but you can either pick fast and good or fast and cheap or one of the three, basically. And another thing that’s more and more important now, the core web vitals, everyone is going crazy over the Google updates. And it has very little to do with your actual hosting and a lot to do with your Java state, Facebook Pixel, Google Tag Manager, YouTube videos you have on your website.
So, just because you have a full score or vital score, switching hosts is not going to do much good for your website and then you need to do front-end optimization to actually get good results, good SEO ranking, and so on. So, I believe that needs to be said a lot more than what’s been done out there right now.
Andrew Palmer: So, on that note, sorry, Jon, on that note.
Jonathan Denwood: That’s alright.
Andrew Palmer: What does Nestify, what are your key differentials between Nestify and any other web host, as far as managed work? So, we have a lot of managed WordPress website hosting left out, what are your key differentials?
Jonathan Denwood: Well, that’s a whole subject in itself, isn’t it, Andrew?
Andrew Palmer: Yeah.
Jonathan Denwood: What do you actually mean by managed hosting? I actually, Rahul, sorry, Andrew. I think that would be, I don’t know if you agree, Andrew. Because I gathered by looking over your website that you actually, there are a few people that offer Amazon web services as a solution, but they offer it through the developer, but you also seem to give some support as well, but in your own mind, what do you think manage WordPress hosting is? Because it’s banded around a lot, but I think it’s so banded now, Rahul, that it’s become diluted as something that means anything, what are your own thoughts?
Rahul Nagare: Yeah. So, back in the old days, managed hosting meant you added server-side cash and basically charged double of regular hosting, that used to be managed hosting, but now everyone is raising the game and you have to do plugin updates, and WordPress updates. So, this thing, I mentioned that a lot, even if you have a blank WordPress site with no important content on it, bots will still try to do the WP login brute force attacks to try and hack your site because they want to use your site as a part of the bigger partner and attack other sites.
So, security is more important than ever and all of this malware, even if you use good plugins and premium plugins, they still have different exploits. So, the hosting provider needs to be on top of all of these things, and unless you’re spending day-to-day managing your WordPress site, you’re better off with someone else taking care of that for you. And if the provider is doing all of these things properly, I would call them managed WordPress hosting, other than that; basically, you’re just glorified cPanel.
Jonathan Denwood: Yeah. I just want to put this to you because it’s to do with me, I’d be interested in seeing if Andrew’s got the same feeling about it because I know a lot of this is me. I have a real, it’s not exactly a problem, but I understand it, but I find it a bit icky, where developers are told, we provide this interface that will be managed from Amazon web services or whoever the cloud provider is. And you’ll be able to go to the client and say, will you provide a hosting solution?
But they have no experience with Linux, they have no experience of being a Linux administrator, and they have no resources available; they’re a good WordPress developer, but they’re not a Linux administrator. And if something goes wrong with that Amazon web service installation, they can send a support ticket, but my experience is they might get an answer or they might not. Because they’re just a tiny little player in the world of Amazon web services.
This doesn’t happen very often, but I’ve known a couple of occasions where a developer’s just disappeared and the client doesn’t know where the website is, doesn’t know the login details to Amazon web services, they know nothing and that’s partly their responsibility, but I just don’t see it as a great advertisement for WordPress. First of all, I’ll put that to Andrew before I put it to you. Andrew, is it just me or is there any kind of truth in what I’ve just said?
Andrew Palmer: Well, you were just about saying, am I just waffling? And you were close to it, but it’s not, the whole, I’m joking here, the whole point is that we all offer managed WordPress website hosting; we have Nestify, we have WP Engine, we have Flywheel, what is the level of managed hosting? A lot of the people say, don’t worry about your website, or a lot of hosts say, don’t worry about your website, we’ll look after that; that, to me, is managed to host.
If you put it on a hosting platform and you are going to look after all the updates to the plug-ins, or at least tell me that my plug-ins need updating, or I have a security issue; that is managed WordPress hosting, you have Pagely, they were charging a couple of grand a month, $1,200 a month, or whatever. You have Nestify that, you have some very strong premium pricing here going on, Rahul, which is, to me, it’s right; people need to be educated, this is not a $2.50 a month hosting solution that you’re offering, you’re offering a managed solution, as far as I can see it.
And what we have to do is educate the people that are actually hosting websites, so it’s from the business owners, right through to the freelancers, right through to the high-end agencies. And there are a couple of control panels out there, RunCloud and Cloudways and whatever, and Grid pay, that helps people like me, manage my websites, but, as Jonathan says, we’re not Linux or Apache experts or NginX, we don’t know. And we also don’t have the full access to the server either, because if we did, it would cause chaos.
So, Rahul, as a managed WordPress website hosting company, how do you manage the expectations of your customers, whoever they may be, whether they’re just a website owner, or whether they’re a developer or a freelancer or an agency, like ourselves, how do you manage your those expectations? I think that’s where Jonathan was coming from.
Rahul Nagare: Yeah. So, that’s part of, basically any business, picking your target customer and shaping your offering and I’m sure it goes through different iterations, whether you’re a developer or an agency or a hosting provider. At first, you try to appeal to everyone and you say yes to anyone who’s paying you and eventually you get better at playing this game and then you start saying no more frequently than you say yes, and then after that, you have a good enough understanding of who makes your best customer, and then you try and spend more time with your current customers to learn what their challenges are, and then basically set the expectations.
That also happened to us, back in the days we used to serve anyone and everyone, and eventually, over time, we learned that we’re good at WooCommerce, we’re solving challenges that not a lot of companies are solving. And the other segment was AWS by itself, they’ll give you the nuts and bolts of their infrastructure and you build everything you want, and not a lot of people, even the AWS service providers had a different understanding of WordPress. So, that’s where we decided to focus more and more and now we work with companies like Sony, and PetSmart, the US government has some sites hosted with us, all of them on AWS.
Andrew Palmer: Yeah, it’s robust, let’s not forget that Netflix is hosted on AWS and BBP, and these massive, I think Netflix pays them something like, I don’t know, 19 million a month for their hosting, it’s a pretty big client, pretty important client. And AWS makes the money for Amazon, but for the managed hosting bit, I now put my big website with you, Nestify. What’s your job?
Rahul Nagare: Yeah. So, first of all, if it’s a big website we’ll talk about the expectations. Are you expecting traffic in spikes? Do you go on Shark Tank and then you get 10,000 visitors per minute for the next couple of days, or is it a news website that we could just put a CDN in front of and let cash handle it? And people just visit it every day, but we don’t have to do much. So, that part of customer discovery is step one, after that, once we know what your challenges are going to be, we’ll migrate that site, make it faster, and everything.
But after that, keeping it up-to-date, keeping the server up-to-date, and if it’s an important enough website, do you need high availability? Does it need to be hosted in multiple regions? All of that will go into that decision.
Jonathan Denwood: Well, what I think you’re saying is you deal with the security, you deal with the Linux, you’ll have a discussion with the client, find out what particular solution that you offer. So, you kind of Quasar customize it, but what I think you’re saying, and I think Andrew would agree, is that you’re not going to deal with updating the plugins or conflict, they’re going to need somebody to help them with that, or you’re going to be de dealing with an agency that’s doing that and they’re looking for you as a partner. Would I be right about that?
Rahul Nagare: Yeah. That’s partly correct. We do WordPress updates, plugin updates as well.
Jonathan Denwood: Oh, you will.
Rahul Nagare: And so, it’s part of the dashboard, you can either update all plugins or you can exclude.
Jonathan Denwood: Yeah, you’re off that, but if there’s a conflict, there has to be somebody that sorts out that conflict, doesn’t it?
Rahul Nagare: So, for the most part, our support will go in, look at the logs and say, Hey, WooCommerce updated last night. The best thing we’ll do is we’ll restore a backup of the plugin for you, but after that, we’re not going to fix that WooCommerce bug, that’s where your agency or developer will come in.
Jonathan Denwood: Yeah. So, before we go, I think, actually let’s go for our break and we’ll continue the discussion. I have one question I want to ask you at the beginning, and then we’ll probably go into the more business challenges you’ve faced. We’re going to go for our break. We’ll be back in a few moments, folks.
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Jonathan Denwood: We’re coming back. I do a weekly newsletter, I do a great summary of the Friday round table show, and I also provide a really personal editorial. Last week’s was about WordPress WordCamp Europe and about community, something I thought was being overused, but I think you would agree, Andrew. There was a great community spirit, not only COVID, but also a community spirit, Andrew, at WordCamp Europe.
Andrew Palmer: Yeah, it was. And if anybody is thinking, do I go to a WordCamp or a WordPress meetup or anything, then that’s the first thing that you do. If you have an opportunity to go out there, even in these COVID times, and meet people that are in the same industry, whether they’re competitors, whether they’re colleagues, their friends, or new friends, then WordCamps and WordPress meetups are the places to be.
Jonathan Denwood: Yeah. So, to get this newsletter, just go to wp-tonic/newsletter, you’ll be able to sign up for the newsletter there. So, I think one of the things, that I’m interested to ask you, Rahul, is on your website, but with WP-Tonic, and I think it would apply to WooCommerce as well, as eCommerce websites. We specialize with our hosting partners with membership, coaching membership, and learning management system websites, some of them are small, some of them are medium, and some of them have thousands or tens of thousands of members; we have a couple that has about 10,000 members.
So, what is the interplay between disk space, RAM, and, especially PH workers, because I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to PH workers in this mixture when you are dealing with larger demanding websites, in which you can’t use cash to solve the problem of performance? How does all this work? Maybe you can give, I know it’s a big question, but you’re the guy I thought to ask and you can give some guidance.
Rahul Nagare: So, for PHP workers, I have been noodling with this idea of explaining PHP workers to a five-year-old and an analogy, I’m still workshopping it. Is if you go to a supermarket, you have all of these checkout lanes, think of them as PHP workers, and the more PHP workers you have, the faster more people will be able to checkout and do their billing and be on their way. If you don’t have enough PHP workers, so let’s say you go on a Wednesday afternoon, there’s only one cashier and the queue starts piling up; people are just trying to get their lunch and be on their way, but the cashier is processing one person at a time.
The same thing is with PHP workers; one PHP worker is going to handle one website visitor at a time and when that’s done the next visitor and so on and so on. So, the more PHP workers you have, the faster the parallel processing will be. And another aspect of that is, because, in the real world, one cashier will only handle one person at a time, but with computers, we can say one PHP worker can handle two requests at the same time, back and forth. So, essentially you have this cashier working two registers at the same time, but basically going back and forth and processing them.
So, those two cash registers would be the CPU, and you can have one PHP worker or the one cashier go through all of these checkout lanes and process everything, but it’s just going to slow them down, it’s going to slow everyone down. So, ideally, you need one CPU for one PHP worker and then just multiply that by however many people, so in the case of WooCommerce and LearnDash; the number of people that are accessing your website at the same time, that’s how many PHP workers you will need.
Jonathan Denwood: So, it is the PHP worker side of it when you’re dealing with WooCommerce or eCommerce or learning management, that has a reasonable number of either people purchasing goods or members. The PHP worker level is going to be quite important to the performance, to the experience of either the purchase of a good or a member. Is that correct?
Rahul Nagare: Yeah. That will basically decide how many people can access your site without slowing it down.
Jonathan Denwood: And is this something that a lot of hosting companies try and minimize because is there any kind of cost in providing enough PH workers compared to disk or Ram? Because it’s all cloud and a lot of this hosting now is cloud-based, it’s Amazon web service, it’s Google cloud, there are a number of providers, so it’s a little bit more complicated, well, it’s always been complicated, but it’s a much more diverse landscape, isn’t it? Am I right about the PH worker? Is there a cost to providing these PH workers in general?
Rahul Nagare: So, if you decide to do it right, for every PHP worker or for at least two or three PHP workers, you’ll need one CPU core. And if you just offer 300 PHP workers and the server itself has four CPUs, it’s not going to mean much, so if you decide to do it right, then your infrastructure cost goes up; that’s why some of the good providers will put a limit on the number of PHP workers and then if you need more resources, you pay more.
But that’s essentially providing you a guarantee that even if you had, let’s say you have a hosting plan with 20 PHP workers and you actually do get 20 checkouts per second. If the host is doing this right, you will actually be able to handle that level of traffic, and if they say, we don’t charge for PHP workers, you can have however many you want. And suddenly you have 300 PHP workers, but not enough CPUs to actually do the backend processing, you’re going to end up with a slow website or you’ll see timeouts on the eCommerce and you’ll lose transactions.
Jonathan Denwood: I believe everything.
Andrew Palmer: My understanding of PHP workers is slightly less than yours, but you’re the host, you’re the man that has the host; you’re saying basically for every four PHP workers, you need one CPU, right?
Rahul Nagare: Yeah. Two to four.
Andrew Palmer: But how does that work in terms of scaling? So, I have my site that’s handling a thousand visitors an hour, and then all of a sudden it goes up to 10,000 visitors an hour, do you also scale, do you give me extra CPUs and PHP workers, or how does that work from a scaling perspective?
Rahul Nagare: So, realistically, even if you have 10,000 visitors, how many of those are actually checking out at any given second? So, the usual conversion rate is, let’s say 2 or 3% if it’s a good website; out of those 10,000 visitors, you have maybe 20 or 30 checking out at the same time. If you have a server with 32 CPU cores, that’s good enough in most cases, and then we work with sites that go beyond that, and then they have 2 or 300 people checking out at the same time.
At that point you have two options, either get a 120 CPU core or large server, keep everything simple, put everything on the same machine, or then you can use AWS or Google cloud and go horizontal and then, basically spin up more and more instances, each one of them has 16 or 32 PHP workers. And then you can scale as much as you want.
Andrew Palmer: Right. And you would handle that process, but I wouldn’t have to click any buttons or pay any extra for that scaling, I already have that scaling built-in?
Rahul Nagare: That’s correct. Yeah.
Andrew Palmer: Okay. Because it is a confusing thing and this is what I want hosting providers to do is really simplify the explanation to the end-user, because we’re not server guys, we don’t build the servers, I’m sure we could, if we learned about it, but we decided to sell websites rather than host them. But the language is confusing, would you agree that the language is unnecessarily confusing, Rahul?
Rahul Nagare: Yeah. Some of that probably is intentional because every time a host says we’re now a digital experience platform, they get to charge more, and then they say we now have PHP workers, whereas other people don’t have PHP workers, although that’s not true. Companies come up with these different terminologies. Serverless is the new one. Edge cashing. These are important concepts, but when they start putting them as a differentiator and as a marketing aspect it works in the company’s interest to keep it confusing to most people, so other providers don’t say, Hey, we also do that, there’s no big deal in PHP workers.
Andrew Palmer: Exactly, yeah. Exactly, yeah. Brilliant.
Jonathan Denwood: I think we’re going to wrap it up now, folks, we’re going to continue the discussion; I’m going to be asking Rahul about who about some of his experience, about building up his hosting Nestify, some of the lessons he’s learned. It should be a great continuation of this great interview. So, Rahul, how can people find out more about you and your great company?
Rahul Nagare: So, I’m getting back more and more into writing some of these things talking about AWS and scaling, it’s mostly on the Nestify blog, if you go to nestify.io/blog. We recently wrote an article about how much it’ll actually cost if you decide to go with AWS and what the costs involved are. So, yeah, the blog would be a good place.
Andrew Palmer: Perfect.
Jonathan Denwood: And Andrew, how can people find out more about you and what you’re up to, and how’s it going with your great plugin solution for copywriting?
Andrew Palmer: Bertha AI is going pretty well, I have to say, we had some interesting partnership meetings in the, in wherever we were, Portugal; I have COVID brain, unfortunately; I’ve gone a bit dull. We met up with some lovely people at W C E U, and there’ll be a few announcements coming up in the next couple of weeks. But basically, yeah, Bertha.ai is sponsoring a little summit next week, as well, pagebuildersummit.com; so people can find me on there and also at Arnie Palmer on Twitter.
Jonathan Denwood: That’s great.
Andrew Palmer: And hopefully, I’ll be over COVID by the end of next week, because it’s ‘doing me head in.
Jonathan Denwood: Yeah. Well, it’s difficult, isn’t it?
Andrew Palmer: Yeah.
Jonathan Denwood: So, as I said, join us for the bonus content; you do that by going to the WP-Tonic YouTube channel, please subscribe to the channel, it’s been growing quite a bit recently. We have some great content on there, great interviews, plus the round table, plus additional content that I put up every week on the channel. We’ll be back next week with another great guest, and another great interview. We’ll see you soon, folks. Bye.
Outro: Hey, thanks for listening, we really do appreciate it. Why not visit the mastermind Facebook group and also to keep up with the latest news, click wp-tonic.com/newsletter. We’ll see you next time.
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