If your WordPress website is going to be a success, then you need the right hosting provider! In this article, I’ll tell you some pros and cons of hosting WordPress on AWS. Then I’ll show you how to launch a website with Amazon Lightsail.
Choose the right provider, and you’ll enjoy faster loading times, improved SEO, and less downtime—plus, you’ll avoid many of the headaches associated with running a successful WordPress website.
There are countless WordPress hosting providers out there, but in this article we’ll be focusing on Amazon’s Lightsail. We’ll be exploring the benefits and drawbacks of choosing Amazon as your hosting provider, before showing you how to launch a website using Lightsail. Even if you have zero previous experience with Amazon Web Services (AWS), by the end of this article you’ll have configured and launched a WordPress website, using Amazon’s Lightsail.
And in case our pros and cons section leaves you questioning whether Lightsail is really the best option for your website, we’ll also be taking a look at an alternative hosting provider.
What Are Amazon Web Services (AWS)?
AWS is an on-demand cloud computing platform that provides access to large-scale cloud computing capacity, without you having to build your own physical server farm.
Although AWS is metered on a pay-as-you-go basis, subscription fees vary depending on your chosen hardware, software and networking features, as well as your availability, security and service requirements.
AWS is an umbrella term for hundreds of cloud computing services. In February 2020, Amazon was offering over 200 separate AWS products, with more products expected to be launched throughout the year.
Although there’s too many to cover in this article, some of the notable AWS products include:
- Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). Provides a computer data storage architecture that manages data as objects, making Amazon S3 ideal for backup and recovery, data archiving, and hybrid cloud storage. Amazon S3 uses the same scalable storage infrastructure as the Amazon.com website.
- Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). Provides access to a virtual cluster of computers that come with pre-loaded application software, including databases and web servers.
- AWS Lambda. This is a serverless, event-driven computing platform that’s designed for building on-demand applications that run code in response to specific events. Lambda automatically manages the computing resources required to run your code, which makes it ideal for provisioning back-end services that are triggered in response to HTTP requests, and then automatically deprovisioning these resources when they’re no longer required.
For the purposes of this tutorial, we’ll be focusing on one AWS product in particular: Amazon Lightsail.
Getting Started With AWS: What Is Amazon Lightsail?
Lightsail is a cloud platform that provides everything you need to deploy and host your WordPress website, including instances, managed databases, static IP addresses, and load balancers. Although we’ll be focusing on using Lightsail to launch your WordPress instance, you can also use Lightsail to deploy small-scale web applications, business software, developer sandboxes, and testing environments.
Lightsail is very popular among WordPress users, but it isn’t the only choice for hosting a WordPress website. Before I show you how to install WordPress and launch your website on Amazon Lightsail, let’s make sure it’s the right platform for you, by examining its strengths and weaknesses.
Lightsail and WordPress: The Pros
Let’s start positive, and look at the reasons why you may want to opt for Lightsail over other WordPress hosting services.
1. It’s Beginner-Friendly
Lightsail is geared towards helping new users get started with AWS.
The Lightsail management console provides easy access to all the core AWS configuration options, so you can configure your server, your static IP addresses and DNS (Domain Name System) settings without any specialist assistance. If you’re an individual or small business who doesn’t have a system administrator on-hand, then you can easily use Lightsail to create, deploy and maintain a self-hosted WordPress website.
Using Lightsail, you can typically bring a host online within minutes, even if you have zero previous AWS experience.
2. It Has a Set Monthly Limit
With Lightsail, you pay an hourly rate for the resources you consume, up to a pre-arranged maximum monthly cost.
At the time of writing, Lightsail subscriptions ranged from $3.50-$240 per month, although plans that include a Windows Server license are noticeably higher than the comparable Linux and UNIX plans. In addition, any outbound data transfers that exceed your plan’s data transfer allowance, will be subject to overage charges.
3. It’s Flexible
What happens if your website outgrows its Lightscale subscription? If you require more resources, then you can upgrade your RAM and storage capacity at any time, by migrating to a new Lightsail instance. Alternatively, if you need to cut costs or save resources, then you can switch to a smaller Lightsail instance.
Although migrations are supported, Lightsail doesn’t offer one-click migration. If you’re upgrading your Lightsail plan to a larger instance, then you’ll need to take a snapshot and then create a larger instance from this snapshot. If you’re migrating to a smaller instance then you’ll need to backup your data to an alternative AWS service, launch a smaller Lightsail instance, and then manually migrate all your data to this new instance.
Lightsail and WordPress: The Cons
While Lightsail has many positives, there are some drawbacks that make it unsuitable for certain use cases.
Could an alternative hosting platform be a better fit for your WordPress website?
In this section, we’ll explore some of the cons of opting for Amazon’s Lightsail platform.
1. It Doesn’t Auto-Scale
Although you can upgrade to a larger Lightscale instance at any time, Lightscale won’t spin up additional instances when certain criteria are met, and it won’t spin down resources when they’re no longer required.
If you’re building a personal website, or your site isn’t business-critical, then this lack of agility may not be a huge issue, however it does make Lightscale unsuitable for the enterprise, or websites that have fluctuating workloads.
If you require an enterprise-ready platform that auto-scales to meet your website’s demands, and can handle significant fluctuations in traffic, then you may want to look for an alternative platform.
2. You Need to Pay Extra for Technical Support
By default, all Lightsail users are entitled to the Basic Support package, which provides access to the official AWS documentation, whitepapers and support forms. This Basic Support package also includes 24×7 customer service, but it’s important to note that this isn’t technical support.
If you require technical support, then you’ll need to purchase a separate support package, which at the time of writing ranged from $29 per month to $15,000 per month.
Lightsail is straightforward to setup and maintain, so in theory you’re unlikely to require much technical assistance, but if you do encounter an issue then you’ll need to either purchase a dedicated support package, or deal with the problem yourself.
If your WordPress website is business-critical, or you plan to implement advanced or complex functionality, then you should either plan to purchase an additional support package, or opt for an alternative platform that provides technical support as standard.
Purchasing a Domain Name
The first step to launching a successful website, is to register a domain name.
As a general rule, you should opt for a domain name that’s easy to spell, pronounce and remember, includes keywords that are relevant to your website’s content, and doesn’t have any numbers or hyphens.
There are countless domain registrars to choose from, but some of the most popular include:
How to Host Your WordPress Website Using Amazon Lightsail
In this section, we’ll launch and configure a WordPress instance using Lightsail. By the end of this tutorial, your Lightsail instance and your WordPress website will be online, and open for business.
Sign Up for Amazon Web Services
To complete this tutorial, you’ll need an AWS account. If you don’t have an AWS account, then you can sign up for 12 months of Free Tier access, which includes a 30-day free trial of Amazon Lightsail.
Create Your WordPress Instance
To start, we need to create a WordPress instance in Lightsail:
- Sign into the Lightsail console.
- Select the Instances tab.
Lightsail should detect your AWS Region and Availability Zone automatically, but you can change these values, if required.
- Under Pick your instance image, choose Linux / Unix.
- Under Select a blueprint, choose WordPress.
- In Choose an instance plan, select the plan that you want to use; at the time of writing you could try Lightsail for free, for 30 days.
- Give your Lightsail instance a unique name.
- Click Create instance.
AWS will now create your Lightsail instance.
Amazon’s SSH Client: Retrieving Your WordPress Password
In this section, you’ll connect to your instance using the browser-based SSH client that’s included as part of the Lightsail console. We’ll then use this client to retrieve the password you’ll use to log into your WordPress account:
- In the Lightsail console, select the Instances tab.
- Find the instance that you just created and click its accompanying SSH quick-connect icon. The browser-based SSH client will now launch in a new window.
In the SSH window, type the following command and press Enter.
The SSH client will now display the password you’ll need to log into your WordPress dashboard; make a note of this password, as you’ll be needing it shortly.
Log Into the WordPress Admin Dashboard
To access WordPress, you’ll need the public IP address of your WordPress instance.
In the Lightsail console, select the Instances tab; you should see a card representing your WordPress instance.
The public IP address will be displayed in the card’s bottom-right corner.
In a new tab, enter the following URL, making sure to replace publicIP with the public IP address you retrieved from the Lightsail console:
You should now see the standard WordPress login screen.
You can now log into your account using the email address associated with your AWS account and the password you retrieved from the SSH client.
Create a Static IP Address
By default, the public IP attached to your Lightsail instance will change every time you stop and restart your instance, which means you’ll need to constantly update your domain’s DNS records.
In this section, I’ll show you how to create a static IP address and attach it to your WordPress instance, so you don’t have to worry about updating your DNS records:
- In the Lightsail console, select your WordPress instance.
- Select the Networking tab.
- Select Create static IP.
- Open the Attach to an instance dropdown and select the WordPress instance you created earlier.
- In Identify your static IP, give your static IP address a unique name.
- Click Create.
Adding a Record to Your DNS
Next, we need to map a domain name to our Amazon Lightsail instance:
In the Lightsail console, select the Networking tab.
- Select Create DNS zone.
- Find Enter the domain you have registered, and enter your domain name.
- Select Create DNS zone.
The Lightsail console will now display several name server addresses.
To transfer management of your DNS records to Lightsail, you’ll need to add these name server addresses to your domain name’s registrar, so either make a note of these addresses or leave this page open in a separate tab.
Switch to Lightsail’s Name Servers
Now, you need to sign into your DNS hosting provider’s website, and replace the default name servers with Lightsail’s name servers.
This process can vary, so check your provider’s official documentation or blog for more information. To give you an idea of the steps involved, here’s how I changed the name serves for my GoDaddy account:
- Log into the GoDaddy Domain Control Center.
- Select your domain name.
Choose Manage DNS.
- In the Nameservers section, select Change.
- Select the I’ll use my own nameservers checkbox.
- Delete all of GoDaddy’s default name servers.
- Select Add nameserver.
- Copy/paste Lightsail’s name servers into the GoDaddy console, and then click Save.
Mapping the Root of Your Domain
Now, you need to map the root of your domain to your Lightsail instance:
- If you don’t already have the Networking screen open, then navigate to Lightsail Console > Networking and select your WordPress instance.
- In the DNS records section, click Add record.
- In the Subdomain box, enter the @ character, as this signifies that you’re mapping the root of your domain, and not a subdomain.
- Select the Resolves to box, and in the subsequent dropdown choose the static IP address that you attached to this WordPress instance.
- Save your changes by clicking the green checkmark.
You may need to wait while the name server propagates through the Internet’s DNS, so this change may not be instant. However, in the Lightsail console’s Instances tab, there should now be a blue pin next to your instance’s IP address, which indicates this is now a static IP address.
You’re Ready to Build Your WordPress Website!
Now, head over to the domain name you purchased earlier, and you should see the standard Hello World WordPress website.
To start working on your site, enter your domain with a wp-login.php suffix, for example if you purchased the domain name my-example-website.co.uk then you’d use the following:
You can now log into your account using your email address and password, and start working on your WordPress website.
Don’t Want to Use Amazon Lightsail? Seven Reasons to Host With SiteGround Instead
Amazon Lightsail isn’t the only platform where you can host your WordPress website.
If Lightsail doesn’t tick all your boxes, then you may want to take a look at SiteGround. This web hosting company already provides managed WordPress hosting to over 2,000,000 domains, and is widely recognized as one of the highest rated WordPress hosting providers on the market—second only to WordPress themselves!
1. Recommended by WordPress
SiteGround is one of only three companies that’s officially recommended by WordPress.org.
“Just like flowers need the right environment to grow, WordPress works best when it’s in a rich hosting environment… We’ve dealt with more hosts than you can imagine; in our opinion, the hosts below (SiteGround, DreamHost and BlueHost) represent some of the best and brightest of the hosting world.” — WordPress Web Hosting
2. One-Click Installation and Automatic Updates
Why go to the effort of downloading, installing and configuring WordPress manually, when SiteGround provides a straightforward, click-and-install solution?
3. A Speedier WordPress Website
To improve your website’s loading speeds, SiteGround uses SSD, a custom PHP handling setup that’s optimized with an OPCache extension, the CloudFlare Content Delivery Network (CDN), and a unique SuperCacher feature that caches your WordPress website on three different levels.
SiteGround also frees up RAM for dynamic content caching, by using NGINX Direct Delivery to remove static content from the server memory.
For users who want an additional performance boost, SiteGround also offers a SG Optimizer plugin that’s been proven to deliver a 20-30% performance boost even for websites that are already optimized.
4. Staging: Test Changes and New Content in Private
Do you want to test experimental changes or new features in private, before sending them out into the world?
SiteGround lets you create a staged copy of your WordPress website with a single click, so you can test your changes without disrupting your live website. Once you’re happy with your changes, SiteGround makes it easy to roll them out to your users.
5. Protect Your Site Against the Latest Hacks and Exploits
To help protect your WordPress installation, SiteGround manages the overall security of your application at the server and firewall level. Since new security threats are emerging all the time, SiteGroud frequently adds new rules that are designed to help protect your website against the latest security threats.
6. Technical Support: Your Issues Resolved Within 5 Minutes
Regardless of whether you purchase the StartUp or GoGeek subscription, you’ll have access to 24/7 technical support over the phone, via instant message, or using SiteGround’s ticketing system, with SiteGround aiming to resolve the majority of serious issues within 5 minutes.
7. Easily Migrate an Existing WordPress Website
Do you already have a WordPress website, but are unhappy with your current hosting provider?
The prospect of migrating your entire website can be daunting, but SiteGround’s Migrator plugin lets you securely migrate all your content, while keeping your WordPress configuration intact.
In this article, we looked at the pros and cons of hosting your website with Lightsail. We also saw exactly how to install, configure and launch a WordPress website using Amazon’s cloud platform.
Using Lightsail, you can create a website even if you have zero previous AWS experience. However, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all hosting provider, so there are some drawbacks that mean Lightsail may not be the best choice for your particular website.
If Lightsail doesn’t meet all your requirements, or you simply don’t want to use an AWS product, then we explored SiteGround as a possible alternative.
Have you launched a WordPress website using either Lightsail or SiteGround? We’d love to hear about your experiences, so be sure to share them in the comments below!