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MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von PuttenhamCalifornia Icrontian


In the coming days (weeks), I'll be setting up a website. This is something I have not done before.

Most of the online resources I have suggest it is easy. "Buy a domain," they say, "and get a host. Then, just upload your shit and you're set!"

The trouble is, I'm left with quite a few questions, which I'd like to bounce off you guys.

Now, I've done some server admin-ing, but it's all been technical shit, none of this hoofy-floofy web crap. I find myself with a domain from Gandi, a one-year hosting plan from Bluehost with no frills, and a bunch of install scripts. And heeeeeeere are my questions:

  1. Is there a pro/con list to transferring my domain to Bluehost vs. just pointing my domain's nameservers to Bluehost? I understand the principle behind it, but for the life of me I can't think of any situation where I'd care either way.
  2. Hardening a webserver - I've done some simple hardening on Ubuntu Server, but that was a home machine where I had OS-level access. Am I correct in imagining I am only responsible for hardening the packages running on my server? If not, what else might I have to harden?
  3. I don't have OS-level access, and I don't know how these guys do their thing. What packages generally run on hosted webservers with fancy-schmancy web interfaces that I simply won't know about? For instance, I can see right off the bat that the machine has MySQL installed, and I can't imagine it DOESN'T have Apache installed. What else? More importantly, what else that I'm responsible for understanding, configuring, and hardening?
  4. Managing email accounts is something I've done. Setting them up is something else entirely. Some time ago, Ars Technica did a beautiful four (or so) piece report on building your own email server from scratch, so I know email is a BIG freakin' beast. I notice in my control panel I have the OPTION to turn on spamassassin... okay, that's not hard, but just how much else do I need to handle?
  5. I don't know shit about SEO. Does anyone have a preferred resource (obviously I'm googling, but I also like personal recommendations)? How much SEO does Icrontic do? How bout other websites forumgoers run?
  6. I'll be using wordpress in general - looks like Bluehost has a nice install script from it, and I'm going through wordpress tutorials... what kind of pitfalls am I looking at admining wordpress in the wild?
  7. We may at some point be looking at ads. How do you guys handle this? Do you collect ad revenue as a business entity? Are ads linked through wordpress, or will I need to get my hands dirty and edit my theme to include them?
  8. What other questions am I missing?

I feel like this is a good start! Thanks folks!



  • By the way this my preferred sort of Wordpress standard setup for what it's worth:
    Domain registrar: does not matter, but something that is not going out of business soon
    DNS host: Amazon Route 53
    Web host: wpengine
    Email: Google
    Analytics: Google + webmaster tools
    Ads: Adsense unless you are doing something shady, then yahoo/bing/medianet
    backups: vaultpress
    theme: http://underscores.me/ .. more for advanced do from scratch stuff since this is minimal

    Can I ask what type of website you are putting up?

  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian

    Shit, that was fast. Thanks, buddy! Looks like most of the heavy stuff is taken care of.

    I already went with bluehost, so I can't grab wpengine. They look pretty fair, but yeah, too late.

    The backup thing is a good call. Going by what you said (learn to use their control panel), I see only a paid backup system here. Would it be better to just keep my local copy of the website backed up (right now I'm rotating my backup hard drive) and manually restore when I need it?

    Meanwhile, I'll look into vaultpress after this post, thanks!

    And thanks for the theme - I'll need to run it by the better half.

    As for what we're doing... it's not a huge company or anything, just a simple blog for her to put on her writing resume. Which may preclude ads, too.

  • PirateNinjaPirateNinja Icrontian
    edited January 2015

    The theme I mentioned is a framework type thing for building a theme from the start, it isn't for everyone. Not sure how much it would help and I don't know who makes good themes these days. Ten years ago I used Rocket Theme a lot for Joomla. Maybe they are still good? I'm sure there are a million good free ones out there too.

    Regarding backups, with WP you need to backup your theme and your database. How you do it is up to you. I don't know much about your host, but you can likely access cron via their control panel to run an sql dump and a dump of your theme directory every X days to an external server via ssh. Or you can manually do this stuff, but manual anything is the enemy of backups. Vaultpress also costs money, but the thing is the time it takes to use it to restore is almost zero and it pays for itself the first time you need it.

    She can setup the ads without incorporating or anything like that unless things have changed over time. Adsense almost always pays out the highest because Google has highly targeted traffic and the most bidders for that traffic ... but I would very much so recommend not installing ads until the blog is at least 3-6 months along so that you can get Google indexed without Google thinking your primary reason for existence is ad revenue. Counter-intuitively (on the surface) to their business model, they don't like that. So to establish some SEO hold off on ads, because unless you get a ton traffic they aren't going to make you enough money to even get an initial payout for a while.

    Also, you may want to funnel your DNS through Cloudflare which will speed things up a lot without much complication. I assume bluehost doesn't have their own caching system, and I'd recommend avoiding WP plugins that provide caching. Hence cloudflare. That will speed up the site quite a bit, and for SEO speed is nice.

    Any questions at all as you go I'm here to help. Good luck fellow Dan!

  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian

    Thank you, that's plenty of good info! I'm also half-capitalizing on this as a learning experience, so I'll be trying a couple other weird plugins. Vaultpress gets really good reviews. I'll need to talk to the lady about whether or not we want to deal with yet another monthly subscription - and if backup systems are as easy as plugins, I'd kind of like to try out some of the other free ones that require me to do a bit more legwork. I'm willing to put a little manual work in so I can learn about it... it's just getting to that careful balance between "what if I do THIS part myself" and "oh god it needs fixed and that's more important than learning."

    But yes, when I feel comfortable (or as soon as the need to run outweighs the need to learn), I'll be switching to vaultpress. It does in fact look good.

    From the looks of it, I can install WP on some child domains or something and play with themes anyway, so why not give underscores a shot? What sorts of stuff have you done with it?

    Help me out... I know what caching is and why folks do it - but why would any provider choose NOT to do it? I assume when you say funnel, you mean have Gandi's DNS (my domain provider) point to Cloudflare, and have Cloudflare point to Bluehost, for the purpose of utilizing CF's caching system. Do I have this correct?

    If this is the case, I need to first check whether or not Gandi or Bluehost caches... which may save me trouble either way. Does it sound like I understand right?

    Is there a detriment if MULTIPLE providers cache?

  • Caching is a multi-layered problematic thing. You can cache DNS requests. You can cache files. You can cache dynamic content (and thusly make it static). So it is a broad term that refers to a tun of stuff. Simply put, the more aggressively one caches the more likely something doesn't work. Most web hosts simply don't have caching systems because they host 8000 very different websites, and the same caching system would cause 800 of them to break. So they leaving caching and it's intricacies up to you. Hosts that offer up caching have been stringent with their customer base from the beginning with the rule of: turn it off if you don't like it, it only does these specific things. For platform specific hosts, like how WPE only hosts WP, this becomes easier.

    Now regarding seo, speed is not near as important of a factor as content unless you are dreadfully slow. You may not need caching at all. But since you may, and since you want to know:

    Cloudflare does the following for free:

    • blocks known naughty traffic, keeping your site safer. not that a personal blog is going to get ddosed or whatever.
    • a cdn (ie. your website is imaged to 20 servers around the world, and people are routed to the one closest to them). I believe you can configure CF to cache x and not y, and you can shut it off at any time. Caching can be a pain in the butt during development.

    So basically, CF will image (or cache) your website content on their own servers - but they will grab the original content from bluehost and direct dynamic post requests to bluehost as well. That means if you have say a PHP script that displays the current time, people will still see the current time when they visit the page instead of the time it was cached.

  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian

    Cheers sir. I don't want to mess with DNS too much after it's set up since SEO is a fragile, fragile thing from what I read... so I'm working on cloudflare now.

    It all gets very complex very quickly - lots of pipes to lots of different places, and each node in the pipe has a different credential. I'm still not perfectly solid on how Cloudflare's CDN works, so I figure the best way to learn is to set it up and see what it does.

    Anyhow, thanks for the info! If you get any other good ideas, throw them my way... I'm working through them bit by bit!

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