Making a website requires a server to host your website files. Servers can be rented from web hosting companies on a monthly basis.
If you’ve never launched a website you might feel overwhelmed since it’s hard to know where to start.
I’ve personally had the opportunity to launch hundreds of websites in the past decade as a professional web developer.
What I’ve learned is that not all web hosts are created equal and properly configuring your server is no small feat.
The good news is that these days there are hosting companies that will do most of the heavy lifting for you.
In this guide, we will be using Cloudways to host our WordPress website. WordPress is a content management system used to create websites and blogs.
I’ll show you the exact steps to setting up your hosting, installing WordPress for managing your content, hooking up your domain name and even installing an SSL certificate for improved security.
Whether you have a new blog or existing website, this tutorial will help you get your cloud-based website hosting up and running in no time.
What is Website Hosting?
Short Answer: Web hosting allows you to host files that are made publicly available to internet users.
Although, we can break the hosting process down into a simple metaphor.
Imagine the land you own is a server that is exposed to the web where you are hosting your website.
Your website would be the home you’ve built on your land (server).
And your home (website) street address would be your domain name.
Cloud Servers vs Local Servers
When people refer to the “cloud” they are simply referring to a remote server that is most likely in a data center.
Local servers are usually hosted on-site by the host, which would be you. I’d think twice before trying to host your own server locally.
A dedicated cloud hosting provider will manage all the technical stuff so you won’t have to lift a finger as opposed to managing a local server yourself which can be a nightmare.
Choosing a Web Hosting Solution
Picking a good hosting company all comes down to finding a reliable server that’s affordable and optimized for scaling as you grow.
In this guide, we will be using Cloudways, a managed cloud hosting provider.
I’ll always choose to use a dedicated or virtual private server (VPS) as opposed to a shared server.
Shared servers are usually dirt cheap, unstable and your website will be stored on the same server with hundreds to thousands of other websites.
How to Host Your Website
Here are the steps you can take to host your dynamic website with Cloudways.
- Sign up with this special link to get 20% off your first two months
- After you’ve signed up make sure to verify your email address
- Now click the “Add Server” button to deploy your managed application
- Choose the first option under the “Wordpress” tab which will be “Version 5.x”
- Name your app and server something like “my website” and “website server”
- Make sure the DigitalOcean tab is selected
- Set your server size to 2GB, you can always scale later if needed
- Pick the location closest to where you live
- Finish launching your new server by clicking the “Launch Now” button
Installing the WordPress CMS
If you’re creating your first website, you’ll want to use a website builder so you can manage your content without a developer.
We will be using WordPress as our Content Management System.
In the previous step, we signed up for Cloudways and launched our first server.
During the server setup process, you should have selected the most recent version of WordPress so it will already be installed and optimized on your server.
Logging into WordPress
Here is how you can find your credentials and login details for WordPress (your content editor).
- Go to the Applications section within your Cloudways dashboard
- Click your application from the list (should only be one)
- Now under the Access Details tab, you will see an Admin Panel section.
- Click the URL link that has the /wp-admin appended
- Now use the provided username and password (click to copy) to sign in to your WordPress dashboard to get started.
Picking a Website Template
The default WordPress template that will be installed is decent but I’d suggest finding a more unique template for your website.
The key ingredients for a great template are calls-to-action, clear separation, digestible content formats, helpful widgets, SEO-friendly, optimized and easy to edit.
I suggest finding a WordPress theme compatible with a page builder plugin like Elementor or Visual Composer.
Free WordPress Themes
If you’re looking to save money but still looking for a solid theme to replace the default option, you can browse the free theme directory.
Keep in mind that free themes will have fewer options and even fewer customizations.
Premium WordPress Themes
Paid WordPress themes have so much more to offer in comparison to the free options.
Whether you’re looking for more layout options or further optimizations for a faster website, premium themes will get the job done.
Configuring Server Settings
The good news is with Cloudways you won’t have to do much to optimize and secure your web server for your WordPress website.
Settings & Packages
Manage various server-level settings from within this tab, let’s say you wanted to change your upload size, you could do that here instead of in the code.
Schedule Maintenance Widow
Since Cloudways will handle most of the essential server upgrades and security patches, all you have to do is let them know when you want this to happen. If you don’t care when maintenance occurs, just leave this setting alone.
It’s important to make backups periodically, although you won’t have to do this manually.
Schedule the time and frequency of your backups and how long you’d like to keep backups.
If you enable local backups they will be stored on your server as well, which will require more space.
You can always take a backup at anytime manually, I do this before I make any new major update to my website layout, functions or whenever I add a new plugin.
Block Unknown Connections (optional)
This may seem a bit overkill for the average individual but it’s an extra step to secure your server.
In most cases, attackers will want to gain SSH or SFTP access to your website to perform malicious activity right under your nose.
We want to whitelist your internet address and block any unknown SSH/SFTP/MySQL connection requests.
Step 1: Get your IP address (your home or office internet address) from a site like ShowMyIP.com
Step 2: Select the “Block all IP addresses, except those on the Whitelist” option.
Step 3: Add your IP address and click the Add button.
That’s all it takes to add a bit more security on top of what Cloudways does out of the box.
Installing an SSL Certificate for Security
This process used to suck, it was expensive and hard to install an SSL Certificate. Now that Let’s Encrypt is around we can create a free SSL and deploy in minutes.
Select the Let’s Encrypt option from the dropdown and enter your root domain like webiste.com then click the Save button.
I would switch on the Auto-Renewal option so that the certificate is automatically regenerated every 90 days after initial creation.
Connecting Your Domain Name
Creating a domain zone within Cloudways is easy, just enter the root of your primary domain and click save changes.
Next, you’ll want to follow the “More Details” instructions below your primary domain to point domain from your DNS settings from within your domain registrar like Google Domains.
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