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Do you really need to build a multi server setup? A guide for growing publishers.

If you’re serious about scaling your digital publishing site, it’s inevitable that at some some point, you’ll need to upgrade your hosting architecture and build a multi-server setup.

Or is it?

Historically, the demands of most publishers have far outstripped the capabilities of managed platforms (providers that essentially ‘rent’ server systems to organisations). So our advice to media operators has typically been to build your own multi server setup. 

But building multiple servers comes with multiple challenges and it’s not uncommon for publishers to quickly become overwhelmed by the added risk and complexity that this change brings.

That’s why we’re delighted to see the evolution of managed hosting platforms in recent years. Services such as WP Engine and WordPress VIP have matured to such an extent that for many online publishers, they offer a better hosting solution than self-managed infrastructure.

This article explains the key differences between self-managed and platform setups, so you’re able to identify the best hosting solution for your publishing infrastructure needs – both now and in the future.

The challenges of managing a multi server ecosystem:

Talent Management:

The future is unpredictable and keeping up with the latest technological advances is a full time job. So it’s important to consider how much talent management is required to successfully run self-managed hosting for your online publishing site.

If you’re serious about building your own infrastructure, you’ll need to hire and maintain a devops / systems administration team.

Developers and engineers are usually already in high demand and require continual training and development to stay on top of their game. And as most publishers have experienced, developers can (and often do) eventually jump ship to another organisation. So succession planning is crucial to the safety of your platform.

In reality, if you’re a small to medium publishing business (less than 100 employees) a managed hosting platform will have already solved the challenges you are facing.

Operational and unforeseen overheads.

It may initially be less expensive to build your own multi server setup. Yet as your business grows, it’s easy to become consumed by tech debt, which will continue to inflate costs over time.

We recently discovered that a new client of The Code Company was paying almost triple the necessary amount for hosting. By switching them to a managed platform, we saved them more than $200,000 a year. 

Coupled infrastructures.

Making infrastructure decisions can be daunting; a decision made today could impact the entire future of your media business. And because tech for niche and enterprise publishing is such a rare and specialist skill set, it’s not surprising that in-house developers can at times overcomplicate things. Yet being tightly coupled with infrastructure (or a development agency) can make future upgrades impossible. Or cripplingly expensive to change.

Unfortunately, too many publishers are trapped in the past and unable to provide consumers with an optimal service due to past infrastructure choices. So why make your website more complex than it needs to be?

READ MORE: The 3 Biggest Mistakes Publishers Make when Building a Website

What is a managed hosting platform?

A managed hosting platform is a specialized service that looks after all of the technical aspects of hosting your website. In recent years, platform providers have worked hard to create a hassle-free experience for all users, so that regardless of your experience you can navigate the system comfortably. 

It’s hard to deny that all of the key requirements of growing publishers are taken care of by modern managed server platforms. They now provide speed, performance, security, backups, caching and updates.

What are the benefits of managed platforms for publishing businesses?

The tech is taken care of

This means that you’re free to focus your attention on content and building your business rather than battling tech issues. By only requiring a WordPress developer/agency, your staffing and training costs are significantly lower than employing a full in-house team.

Free training

As a customer of a managed server platform, you’ll also benefit from regular insights on the best way to manage your digital publication. Think articles from publishing tech experts, plugin recommendations, and best practice on topics such as infrastructure, security, and speed. 

Solutions that scale

Having an ecosystem that can scale is crucial for most media operators. As are tech solutions that ensure you’re ready to move fast and keep your audience engaged. Managed platforms provide a multitude of scaling options for nearly every situation. Lead times can be longer with platform hosting, but it’s usually easy to preempt a major event, and scale your infrastructure in time. 

What happens if your website crashes during a major campaign?

Luckily, most managed platforms offer 24/7 customer support to tackle any emergency meltdowns without the need for your entire development team to be on standby. We’ve had positive customer service experiences with both of the managed WordPress server platforms discussed below.

What options do publishers have for managed platforms?

As a serious digital publisher, your main managed WordPress server platforms are WP Engine and WordPress VIP. The Code Company is a featured partner of both, and they are our reliable, go-to providers when building or replatforming a publishing website.

You’re probably not that special

At the end of the day, most publishers who build complex bespoke infrastructure on platforms like AWS act as if they were trying to solve a unique problem that requires a unique solution.

In reality, when it comes to WordPress powered publishing platforms, the hosting is a more or less a solved issue.

There’s a pretty good chance you’ll be able to work successfully within a platform such as WordPress VIP or WP Engine. And with hosting taken care of, you’re free to focus your technology investment on building bespoke features that actually do make your site special.

Anthony Thorne

Anthony is a full stack WordPress engineer at The Code Company. He works with clients on projects and retainer engagements. Anthony has worked on large Chargify and other payment related API services.

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