|Worked as a ghost author for my good friend Francesco’s website, who is a WordPress expert and software developer. To see the published article, Click here.|
WordPress is a powerful tool that helps us to build dynamic websites within a few hours. If you are a blogger, news website owner, or running a forum for your product/service, you will appreciate WordPress’s dynamic characteristics. On the other hand, if you want a simple website for your business and rarely update your website and contents in it, this dynamic nature is of no use to you. In a conventional hosting method, whether you are running a dynamic website with thousands of visitors per day or a simple site that gets less than a thousand views per year, you have to pay almost the same amount for your hosting provider. But, the game is changing now with the WordPress serverless option.
What is WordPress Serverless?
Since your entire website is a static content now, it loads faster. Almost 3x to 4x times faster than your actual website load time. Since it is a static website, no actual files are included in this process, which gives you an extra layer of security to your WordPress website. In my WordPress and Information disclosure post, I have clearly mentioned how hackers sneak through your website and access sensitive files on your website.
By using WordPress serverless method, the user can see only your static contents. In which there is nothing to breach and nothing to steal.
Sounds Like a Deja Vu
The way WordPress serverless concept work is almost similar to the CDN concept. We clone the entire site and present it in a static form to the users. So it might sound like you have heard or done it before, but there is a difference;
In CDN, your website is first shown as static content, but when the user interacts or click a new page, it is fetched from the server. In this whole CDN process, WordPress remains active.
In the WordPress serverless method, after converting your site into a static content, you can turn off WordPress completely. And can turn on WordPress back to add the changes you want, like adding new pages, posts, or even themes. Afterward, you can again convert it into static content. Which actually makes WordPress as a website builder and not as a website engine. As WordPress is turned off, the files in it cannot be accessed and altered. If you are a website owner, who sets up a website and completely forget about it, this is a boon to you and your data security.
Pros and Cons Of WordPress Serverless
By now, you might have understood that the biggest pros of serverless WordPress are
Speed – Since there are no data files to fetch, request to process, and PHP files to load, your website loads faster than usual WordPress website load. Plus, the modern web designs and page builder blocks makes your website heavy in the normal WordPress state. In the WordPress Serverless form, you get the same eye-catching design that loads faster.
Security – Since WordPress is an open platform, we have to deal with lots of third-party plugins and themes. Hackers mostly use vulnerable plugins to sneak into your website. In the WordPress serverless form, your site is static, and the core WordPress is switched off. Theoretically, your website is at basic HTML and CSS form, which shows only the information you want it to show.
Set it and Forget it – Not all website owners log in to their WordPress admin panel and regularly check their website. In today’s internet world, people need an identity on the net for their business, so they need a website. Asking them to continuously monitor their site and update it regularly is a bit too much for them in their busy business life. WordPress serverless method gives security, expected performance, and the peace of mind to your clients.
Nothing is perfect; the serverless WordPress method has its own disadvantages.
No Dynamic Functions Work Here – A website without any interaction is almost like talking to the wall. In the static state, your website will lose its power to get comments, to let the users reach you via contact forms, and to allow the user to search on your website. It is almost like Iron Man without a suit.
eCommerce Store Owners Should Never Think About This – Unless you are using the Shopify platform, which carries all the store activity outside your main website server, you can’t think about making your WordPress website serverless. Since all the eCommerce store functions are dynamic, the core WordPress should be in the active state. Both WooCommerce and Easy Digital Download owners can’t think of making your online store a static website.
Forum And Membership Sites Won’t Work – If you are maintaining your own forum and membership areas, then you can’t use the WordPress serverless option. If you are using a third-party service like Zendesk, Helpscout, or Freshdesk, to manage your forum and user request, making your site static won’t affect the experience.
Have To Do Constant Static Content Conversion – Each time you add a post or a page, you have to convert that content into static content and have to deploy it. A normal-sized blog with 50 posts will take nearly 40 to 50 minutes, and this will change based on the content type and volume.
Who Should Consider About Serverless WordPress
Before seeing the best Serverless WordPress service providers, let us see whether you should invest in the Serverless WordPress or not. Cost-wise, the serverless WordPress service providers should be less than the traditional hosting providers. The cheap and best hosting provider is Bluehost, in which the plan starts from almost $8/month.
The best serverless WordPress service providers are Shiter and HardyPress. In Shifter, you get a free plan for starters; of course, there are lots of restrictions, and the premium plan starts from $20/month for three sites. On the other hand, the HardyPress starter plan is $4 per month, which again has lots of restrictions, and a proper useful plan starts from $20/month for three sites. Plus, you have to rely on third-party services for comment and forum supports.
- As you can see, Serverless WordPress is not as simple and cost-effective as the CDN service. We have to think twice before selecting this option.
- If you are a small business owner and want a website to just showcase your product and services, Serverless WordPress is worth the try. But if you are using the website as a part of your business strategy to get new users and use chat supports to convert them, Serverless WordPress isn’t the one for you.
- If you are a blogger who publishes one or two articles per month, then you can go for the Serverless WordPress. Because the amount of article to be converted is less, and it also takes less time. On the other hand, if you are running an active blog with at least one article per day, the conversion time itself is long and is not worth the effort.
For example, an article from The Burning Monk Blog got a higher rank in the Hacker News site and started getting thousands of traffics to the blog. In the normal WordPress state, the website became sluggish and almost impossible to use. Soon the site owner Yan Cui noticed it and used the Serverless WordPress method to make the website super fast. You can read his complete experience here.
“Overall, I’m a very happy customer so far……it’s not a problem for my workflow as I create 2-3 blog posts per month at best, so the long generation time is a fair tradeoff for the runtime performance.”
If you post only fewer posts on your blog, you can use serverless WordPress method.
- WordPress Theme developers can really think of using Serverless WordPress for their demo. Because once you updated the theme, the user can enjoy it and can still use it.
- Freelancers and Agencies who create simple websites and one-page websites for their clients. If your client’s requirement is very low, and if you find them not logging into the WordPress dashboard that very often, Serverless WordPress is a good option. Once you set the website, both of you can concentrate on what matters next.
- When security matters a lot — Some sites, like the government websites, need to show the information for the users, but at the same time, they need iron-clad security. In such scenarios, serverless WordPress is a good choice. They can update the content, convert it to static, and can turn-off the core WordPress engine.
Current Serverless WordPress Options
There are two ways you can achieve Serverless WordPress. One way is to simply subscribe to the service, which most of the common users will prefer. The other is a tough DIY path, which only a few people with sheer love for adventure will do. The best Serverless WordPress service providers at present are Shifter and HardyPress. I will not compare both of them in this post but will give an overview of both the services. For the DIY method, it is always preferred to go with the AWS- Amazon Web Services, because you have lots of tools to make your job simple.
Using Shifter is almost similar to setting up a WordPress website on a regular hosting server. You have to signup and login to the Shifter dashboard, as shown below.
This where you can add your WordPress website or create a new WordPress site. After you added your website, you can click the Start WordPress button to get into your regular WordPress admin panel. After that, you can do whatever thing you want to do in your WordPress site, as usual. Once you have completed all the work, get back to the Shifter dashboard.
Here you can click the “Generate” button to start converting your changes to the static files. Depending on the size, the time varies. Once the changes are complete, you can publish it to the public by selecting the “Deploy” button. After you are satisfied with the result, you can turn off WordPress by clicking “Stop WordPress”. It is as simple as that.
Based on the plan you choose, you get corresponding space and monthly transfer volume quota. Check their pricing page to see more.
HardyPress is also similar to the Shifter, user-friendly, and easy to set up. To get started, you have to signup first and have to wait for a few minutes to get approval. Afterward, you can log in to the dashboard and can import or create a new WordPress site from the dashboard.
After setting up your account and site with the HardyPress, you can get into WP-admin, just like in the Shifter. After completing the process, simply jump to the HardyPress dashboard and convert the changes into static files. Once you are happy with the result, you can deploy the site to public use. In this service also you can switch off WordPress with the help of toggle buttons.
The unique feature in the HardyPress is to let you use the contact form if you are using Contact form 7 plugin and gives their own search option to search on the static website. Based on the plan you choose, the features and the storage capacity varies. Check their pricing page(https://www.hardypress.com/pricing/) for more details.
Serverless AWS – Amazon Web Service
You can use the AWS S3 to host the website’s static resources and make almost a static WordPress website. Developer Lawrence McDaniel has given a brief step by step process on how to combine Amazon S3 and CloudFront to effectively make a near-perfect serverless WordPress site.
Here is the long story short. Amazon S3 is a serverless service. When you put a static file in the S3 cloud, it automatically scales based on the size of your content. Since it is a cloud service, you can easily access the file; only thing is you have to set proper permission for the buckets (Amazon calls folders on the S3 cloud as buckets, no need to confuse). Even though S3 buckets are easy to use when so multiple users access it, the load on it will increase. For a seamless, fast experience, you can combine the S3 with CloudFront (CDN service).
In the WordPress website, you can use Plugins like W3 Total Cache or a premium Plugin like WP Offload S3 to access static contents from the Amazon S3 buckets.
If you need a more simple AWS solution, take a look at the Pressless and ServerlessWP code repository in the Github, to make your initial process simple.
State of the Serverless WordPress
As you can see, Serverless WordPress is a promising future, but not for everyone. If you depend on your website’s dynamic functions, it is safe to be in the usual WordPress state. But if you find yourself logging in to the WP-admin dashboard rarely and update contents once in a while, you can go for the Serverless WordPress method.
Initially, we have the restriction for contact form and search functions. But now, the developers have found a solution for it. Similarly, all the restrictions which we are facing now in the serverless will be sorted out in the future, and I believe technologies will evolve this way and the WordPress will become more and more “serverless”.