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Attitudes to hosting and costs

Discussion in 'HTML, Graphics & Programming' started by Irish_Tom, 3 Feb 2021.

  1. Irish_Tom

    Capodecina

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 13,136

    One of my eCommerce clients has a medium-sized WooCommerce site, hosted on a Tsohost VPS and pays roughly £60/month, which includes Sucuri CDN, WAF, DDoS protection, one-click backup/restore etc.

    Recently the site has become very slow and crashes frequently. It was causing lots of 503 errors so they added the CDN & WAF package. This has certainly improved speed and reliability on the front-end for cached pages, but it now hits 502 errors when the CDN fails to get a response from the server, and non-cached pages are only marginally better than before (basket, checkout, etc).

    Tsohost has been less than helpful. Their solution is basically to move to a bigger and more expensive VPS, but the site was running fine before Christmas and it's not like the monthly traffic has exploded or anything. I have my suspicions that Tsohost's recent 'upgrade of their VPS platform' has done something because I've experienced similar slowdown on a couple of other Tsohost VPS since the start of January — but this isn't really a rant about Tsohost.

    Due to all of this, my client has decided to leave Tsohost and I've been looking at alternatives.

    I know they could get a similar (or slightly higher) spec server, with a similar level of customer service, at a similar price from the likes of StablePoint or Krystal, but I also wanted to explore some other options so I looked at WPEngine. Given that they're WordPress specialists and are constantly rated as one of the best WordPress/WooCommerce hosts, I was interested in what makes them stand out.

    WPEngine has a standard package which includes basic Cloudflare CDN for £35/month, but it's on a shared server and I'd be concerned about other websites affecting their performance. So I had a chat with their sales & technical team and they were very thorough going into all the details of the site. Their recommendation is for a Google Cloud C2 Dedicated Server with Cloudflare CDN and WAF for £468/month. From my conversations with WPEngine, it certainly seems like they have a much higher level of customer service than the other providers — the above includes a dedicated account manager, escalated support tickets, 30-day onboarding and optimisation etc.

    Part of me thinks this is complete overkill for my client's needs and also eye-wateringly expensive. But is that just because I'm conditioned to think £10/month is 'normal' for a basic WordPress brochure website on a shared server?

    I guess it comes down to an individual website's requirements, balanced against revenue and putting a price on stability and uptime (which maybe only my client can answer) but I wanted to get OcUK's opinion because I could be completely out of the loop on this.

    Is £500/month actually quite normal/reasonable?
     
  2. bloodiedathame

    Sgarrista

    Joined: 11 May 2007

    Posts: 8,050

    Location: Surrey

    Out of interest, how do the prices here compare for your needs? https://bigfuture.duoservers.com/

    (I do a bit of reseller stuff on the side for tiny clients running a wordpress site or two).
     
  3. Irish_Tom

    Capodecina

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 13,136

    Certainly in terms of server spec:cost ratio, they look competitive.

    My concerns are primarily that they appear to use US data centres and my client is UK based, and it's not clear whether they are managed servers or not.

    The impression I get from that site (which I accept may be incorrect) is that it's bare-bones hosting, which isn't really what my client needs.
     
  4. Dup

    Capodecina

    Joined: 10 Mar 2006

    Posts: 10,315

    Location: East Lancs

    It all depends on the needs of the customer. If the hosting performance means they get will more sales volume then it may be worth it, but that's a huge increase in cost to remedy a problem that isn't due to new demand on the site. It might even be the fault of the eCommerce platform itself. If traffic is just the same as before I would suggest a similar cost VPS elsewhere would suffice. If they're only mid-sized even a CDN might be unecessary.

    I believe Stablepoint give you options on the services they deploy to which might give you some scalability if you want someone to spec that out for you and support it. Ideally you want hosting that can accomodate the current traffic but scale reasonably in cost to meet future demand (or vice-versa) without the need to re-deploy to a new host. It may be possible to cheaply deploy & split traffic to a new host in the short term to test stability and performance and assess if the issue is really is TSO and rule out other factors.
     
  5. kindai

    Soldato

    Joined: 9 Aug 2013

    Posts: 7,206

    Location: Bromsgrove

    Management is where these companies make the money nowdays.

    Look at something like Vultr on Cloudways managed if you REALLY need that management layer.

    I have all my clients on Vultr high frequency now, though obviously im that management layer.
     
  6. daz

    Capodecina

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 24,013

    Location: Bucks

    Whether it's worth it or not depends on a lot of factors, e.g. their turnover and how much they rely on their website. If they turnover £1m+ a year and are wholly reliant on their website, then £500/month (and a single server) might actually be lightweight. WP Engine are very well regarded, they are probably the 2021 equivalent of Rackspace - largely good at what they do but they will charge you for absolutely everything they can.
     
  7. daz

    Capodecina

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 24,013

    Location: Bucks

    It's where money is made but it's also where costs arise. Hiring good people to manage systems and servers is not cheap.

    Some users are quite capable of managing their own servers via any cloud provider - Vultr, DO, AWS, GCP etc, but there's a lot of people and companies that would just prefer to outsource that side of things so they a) are guaranteed a level of competence and experience and b) paying their own staff to manage servers (or hiring someone) is usually more expensive than using a managed service in the first place.
     
  8. Irish_Tom

    Capodecina

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 13,136

    Funnily enough, this is pretty much what I've said to my client. I've given them the option of a couple of Stablepoint servers — one that matches their current Tsohost VPS and one that's a bit better specced. Then they can bolt on Cloudflare Pro if they still want the CDN.

    I've also given them the WPEngine option. Just waiting to hear back from them (assuming they didn't pass out when they saw the cost. :D)

    Thanks, that actually looks pretty good in terms of spec and price. I'll have a further read in the morning.

    Yeah, that's how I've positioned it to my client — basically down to them to decide whether the cost can be justified in relation to their turnover etc.

    Indeed. And I have to admit, I've been impressed with the two calls I've had with them so far. They certainly give the impression that they'd offer a higher level of service than Stablepoint (who I use for a couple of my own sites) and definitely better than Tsohost.
     
  9. Hutchy

    Wise Guy

    Joined: 27 Jun 2009

    Posts: 1,158

    Location: Manchester

    I'd recommend Krystal's Onyx platform then use the Litespeed WP plugin to deal with the caching and CDN.
     
  10. Irish_Tom

    Capodecina

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 13,136

    I've looked at Krystal but they seem to charge quite a bit for extras that you get included with most other platforms. E.g. £12.50/month for a cPanel license seems a bit much.
     
  11. Hutchy

    Wise Guy

    Joined: 27 Jun 2009

    Posts: 1,158

    Location: Manchester

    Ah fair enough, although I'm not sure why you would need cPanel!

    I feel like you get a lot for their pro package at £34.99. I run a few busy e-commerce sites off it and it has been working well so far!
     
  12. Beansprout

    Man of Honour

    Joined: 31 Jan 2004

    Posts: 16,316

    Location: Plymouth

    Do you have any metrics from Tsohost? ie do you know if the system load average is high, it's using all its CPU/RAM, etc?

    I would be tempted to place it on a server with Litespeed and the LScache Wordpress plugin, it works brilliantly with Woocommerce and is more or less click and forget although it can also do all kinds of page optimisations (some worth more than others, and some also handled by Cloudflare if you get the Pro plan).

    WPEngine will be extremely nice to you when they're selling you a system that is £468/month which is much higher than prices on their site, what did you ask them for and what actual specs did they come back with for that price?

    They're not wrong that Google do good systems though, it's my favourite cloud platform aside from the sheer cost of it and the slight speed penalty from not having local disks.
     
  13. Irish_Tom

    Capodecina

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 13,136

    Yeah, I get that cPanel isn't essential, and if you don't need it then why should you pay for it, but it looks like you need to add cPanel if you also want a managed server (which is an extra £60/month).

    So £72.99/month just for Krystal to manage the server, whereas Stablepoint has a similar specced server to Krystal's £28.99/month K4 server for £59/month, including management. It's almost half the price.

    Although I have set up a few AWS instances in my time, I have absolutely no interest in server management or in hosting generally. I'd much rather have my client pay the hosting company directly for a managed server and never have to think about it (except at times like this when the hosting company **** the bed :o). :D

    I haven't seen any specific data but they said that it keeps running out of free memory and that the RAM and CPU are mostly occupied by FPM processes. The thing is, since we added the CDN/WAF package, they keep saying the server load is within normal range but we're still getting 502 errors and customers are experiencing intermittent timeouts at the checkout.

    I can see Stablepoint's shared hosting plans uses Litespeed but it's not clear whether their dedicated servers use it.

    I initially contacted them about their 'Secure Hosting Startup' package, which looks like their starter plan plus Cloudflare for £35/month. However, after speaking to them it became clear that this was on a shared server which my client isn't keen on (after having issues in the past).

    They have a technical questionnaire that asks for quite a bit of detail around the amount of content on the site, monthly traffic, database size, plugins etc. So we went through that over a Zoom call. Then they came back with their proposal. It doesn't specify CPU cores and RAM but it does say that it's a dedicated server on Google C2 architecture. They call it their 'Premium 1 plan' and I understand they go up to 'Premium 10', so it looks like this is their entry-level dedicated hosting option. It also includes their 'Global Edge Security' package which accounts for £195/month of the price.

    I have absolutely no doubt that this is overkill for my client in terms of spec and I've told my client as much, but I was interested to hear what OcUK thought on the subject in general because, as I said at the top of this post, I have no interest in hosting and haven't really looked at it for a long time.
     
  14. On Holiday

    Soldato

    Joined: 29 Dec 2009

    Posts: 6,669

    For your usage? Certainly doesn't sound like it!

    As an example #dayjob are providing solutions for some very large e-commerce sites - running national TV adverts - for approx £250/m.
    Even a clustered set-up example of a site which has been recently surpassed 30k individual visitors a minute with multiple servers comes to just under £5k a year.
    Both examples include full management*.
    - One providers definition of management vastly differs from another so it's worth being careful there.

    If you do consider a cloud platform or a provider offering services on a cloud platform then do consider that 8 CPU Cores "in the cloud" is not comparable to 8 CPU cores on a dedicated or virtual server with dedicated CPU resources.

    Lightsail as an example works out to only give you 17% of the total CPU allocation of what you are sold. i.e. if you have an 8 core VM you could only use 1.36 cores 100% consistently. https://lightsail.aws.amazon.com/ls...zon-lightsail-viewing-instance-burst-capacity

    If your target audience is largely UK then you definitely want a server located in the UK.

    What sort of caching are you using at the moment?
    Litespeed is the simplest solution but does come with a price increase. Varnish + Redis are both free but aren't one-click installations so some providers lean away from offering or setting these up.

    If you get some stats of your current usage then we could work out whether you'd fit on a quality shared hosting provider, managed VPS provider or if you do need something a bit more dedicated.

    As you've discovered with TSO, they'll try and upsell you rather than working out what the actual issue is or offer optimisation guidance.

    Krystal won't do you wrong, other than that I can't really make any unbiased recommendations for providers as I offer hosting personally and larger solutions for $dayjob and don't tend to use other hosting providers other than when I migrate customers away from them.
     
    Last edited: 4 Feb 2021
  15. Irish_Tom

    Capodecina

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 13,136

    Thanks, @WoodyUK, that's really useful information.

    In terms of caching, we're using Redis for the database and then a combination of WP Rocket and Sucuri CDN caching for everything else.

    This has certainly improved the speed of the front-end of the site, except for uncached pages like the Basket and Checkout, and the WP dashboard is still slow to load (although a little faster and more stable than it was when the issues first started).
     
  16. On Holiday

    Soldato

    Joined: 29 Dec 2009

    Posts: 6,669

    Ah good, better than most set-ups already :D
    Do you have any sort of root access or back-end access in the form of a web control panel for the VPS?
    Without seeing CPU/RAM usage or the web service logs it's fairly difficult to say what's holding you back or say what might be suitable as the next step.
    As you've experienced with WPEngine, be wary of companies with a large sales force, they often overspend in marketing and sales leaving their technical support and infrastructure somewhat neglected!
    With that said, there are two Stablepoint bosses in this thread and I hear they give good discount to OcUK members so may be worth a shot on their platform with Litespeed :D
     
  17. visibleman

    Wise Guy

    Joined: 3 Jun 2005

    Posts: 1,652

    Location: The South

    Not to derail the thread but we're experiencing the exact same with our Tso VPS's after the Christmas migration, where we are seeing high usage even though the hosted sites are very low traffic - idling is using a core (most of them are two core variants), a handful of visitors will force the server to starting queuing.
    So i'm wondering if the migration was to lesser hardware or they are actively overprovisioning the hardware; although Tso says all is normal though, so that's good :rolleyes:
     
  18. On Holiday

    Soldato

    Joined: 29 Dec 2009

    Posts: 6,669

    Without looking into what it is they've "migrated", I've seem some providers moving from older Intel E5 v3 and v4 generation CPUs onto Intels new Silver CPU generation and actually losing performance because of lower clock speeds.
     
  19. Beansprout

    Man of Honour

    Joined: 31 Jan 2004

    Posts: 16,316

    Location: Plymouth

    WP Rocket should definitely help, if it's still slow then either the hardware is slow or the site is handling a lot of traffic. Bruce force requests can be a pain if you don't have something like Imunify360 installed.

    If things have misbehaved since any kind of server migration that could also be a cause....

    I'd ask what all their other packages are. I assumed they were all dedicated environments, at least in terms of not being traditional shared hosting where you have 1 VM and 1 operating system, and separate linux users all sharing the same running environment.

    There will be virtualisation present with all the options you have with any provider (unless you specifically pick a bare metal dedicated server), so maybe Wpengine are running containers (eg LXC) and they throw multiple containers on a VM by default, and are trying to sell you a VM with no other users as a dedicated instance.

    That seems fair and to be honest I can see why they don't go into too much technical detail on their site, firstly it's over most people's heads and secondly it's largely irrelevant, at their high level you're trying to buy enough resources and how they provide that should be up to them.

    But at the same time it does matter because understanding what you're buying is key to not overpaying, and to getting the right level of security etc. So for example, if their cheapest package gives you 4 CPU cores and 8Gb RAM, then you don't need anything more. If they give you only 512Mb RAM, 1 PHP worker, and half a teaspoon of bandwidth, then you'd definitely want a bigger package.

    If you're on a £60/month VPS at the moment you probably have at most 2-4Gb RAM, which really should be the minimum that even WPengine's basic package would support.

    Their secure range looks decent enough, things like WAF and DDoS filtering aren't cheap, but a £20/month Cloudflare Pro package works well too.

    Have a look at Kinsta too. Note they show you the 'PHP workers' value which is essentially the number of CPU cores you can use. So you can use that to compare with your current VPS.

    Sorry to give you even more to think about. TLDR any package around £50-150/month from a reputable company should be fine and said company will also assist if there are issues, certainly the likes of Kinsta, WP Engine, Flywheel are well regarded there.
     
  20. Irish_Tom

    Capodecina

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 13,136

    Tsohost don't provide SSH access but I can use Terminal in cPanel (see, it's worth having! :D)

    I've got top and sar if it helps?

    sar -p average for today:

    CPU: all | %user: 10.29 | %nice: 0.07 | %system: 5.47 | %iowait: 1.15 | %steal: 12.30 | %idle: 70.71

    sar -r average for today:

    kbmemfree: 101124 | kbmemused: 913400 | %memused: 90.03 | kbbuffers: 1086 | kbcahced: 335504 | kbcommit: 2857237 | %commit: 138.50 | kbactive: 343077 | kbinact: 381367 | kbdirty: 416


    So, if I've read that right, it looks like it's using 90% RAM (+/- 5%) at all times but it's not really taxing the CPU.

    Really appreciate the help.

    The agency I work for actually has four client sites on Tsohost VPS and three of them have experienced performance issues since the 'upgrade'. It's slightly reassuring (even though it sucks for you @visbleman) that it's not just us! This particular eCommerce store has suffered the most and now they've had enough, but assuming these performance issues continue, we will be moving the other sites elsewhere as well.

    Just FYI, in one support ticket, Tsohost said the following:

    Which was true to a degree, but as I say, we're still hitting these 502 errors.

    Thanks again Beansprout. Yes, the current VPS is 2 Cores and 1GB RAM for £36.66/month — the rest of the monthly spend is on the Sucuri CDN, WAF, and DDoS protection package.

    So my thinking was, move to a Stablepoint D4 server (2 cores & 4GB of RAM) plus Cloudfront Pro would work out at £79/month. Slightly more than they're paying now but a big jump in RAM, which seems to be where the current server is failing.

    Another option would be a D8 server (4 cores & 8GB RAM) plus Cloudfront Pro fo £109/month and that should absolutely fly.

    I'm still not entirely sure if the D4/D8 is Lightspeed though. I assume if it is, I would have to swap out WPRocket for the Lightspeed cache plugin.