Over the years we’ve used dozens of domain registrars and webhosts. We’ve had our favorites, become affiliates and referral partners for a handful, recommended them to scores of clients, and even written similar blog posts about them. As our business grows and new options become available, we do our best to stay on top of the market and update our choices accordingly.
Our latest infrastructure change is threefold: updates to our preferred DNS management tool, webhost, and transactional email tool. I’ll expand on each below, write about how they’re interconnected, and include an update for what this means for you if you’re an existing client.
DNS Management: Cloudflare
We’ve been using Cloudflare for years on a small scale, mainly for our own sites and a few one-off specific use cases. They offer an incredible range of services at the DNS level – basically rules that apply once you type in a website address before it’s actually routed to the web server. Once we started migrating sites from WPEngine to Gridpane (more on that below), we realized the benefits of moving the majority of our client sites’ DNS to Cloudflare. There are many reasons this made sense for us including:
- Separating DNS from the domain registrar. Cloudflare offers robust DNS management in an easy-to-use interface without the access and reliability issues of GoDaddy or Network Solutions (two of our common client registrars).
- Easy to securely share between our team. Unlike sharing a single login to a client’s domain registration in 1Password, our team has individual logins to Cloudflare, all secured with two-factor authentication.
- Automatically low TTL values. DNS not only tells your browser where to go after typing in a URL, but also has rules about how long that information is valid for. These TTL (time to live) values are often a hurdle in moving site hosting – sometimes displaying undesired results for many hours or even days. Cloudflare uses low values automatically, resulting in nearly instant changes.
Managed WordPress Hosting: GridPane
We’ve been strong proponents of managed WordPress hosting for years – nearly as long as the industry has existed – all the way back to WordCamp San Francisco in 2013. We’ve mainly used WPEngine during that time – adding Kinsta as a secondary host option in 2017. They’ve worked well for us overall, but we’ve run into various issues with both, such as storage limitations and PHP worker limits. Kinsta is fairly transparent about what you actually get within your plan limits, but it’s always been a little awkward how little WPEngine shares about their premium P1 plan.
Last year we found GridPane and slowly started moving sites to their platform, backed by servers at Digital Ocean and VULTR. The full transparency on server limits was a great relief, and we were able to move over large sites that had performance issues at WPEngine and Kinsta. Their support has been great, and we’ve now moved over all of our sites from WPEngine to a number of servers managed through GridPane. We can easily create new servers for individual sites and groups of sites based on their needs: high performance CPU, increased RAM, increased storage, specific regional data center, etc. And if a site needs to be moved between servers, it’s a near seamless integration with Cloudflare to quickly update DNS.
Transactional Email: Mailgun
One minor drawback about moving from WPEngine to GridPane is that outgoing email is no longer built in. It makes sense really – you shouldn’t be sending outgoing email through the same server as your website. WPEngine allowed it for small numbers of messages like password resets, but it wasn’t a best practice.
GridPane has a native integration with Sendgrid, but we prefer Mailgun’s functionality and admin backend. It’s quick to set up the required DNS records when using Cloudflare and we use the official WordPress plugin and HTTPS API. Once set up, all outgoing emails go through Mailgun’s servers and outgoing IP addresses, and are logged on their system for a few days for troubleshooting if needed. Once it’s all set up, it’s something we rarely have to look at, and results in much greater deliverability for our clients. Win win.
What does this mean for our clients?
Overall, very little should noticeably change. Your website may get a bit faster! Any outgoing emails should now say that they’re authenticated by your website domain instead of wpengine.com! Both are good things! Our lives become easier too, and we have a little less to worry about.
Interested in Razorfrog maintaining your site? Contact us here.