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Improve your Craft CMS skills

Craft CMS: Hosting With Nexcess

10 min read
Shape April 2022 HR 201

Looking for the optimal hosting environment for your Craft CMS website? Choosing the wrong infrastructure can cripple performance and prevent delivering quality experiences. This guide provides invaluable insights on Nexcess - an expert Craft CMS hosting provider purpose-built for speed, scalability, and reliability. Learn how Nexcess empowers blazing-fast sites, simplifies management, and provides the stability and support needed to maximize Craft's capabilities.

Nexcess provides optimized Craft CMS hosting with speed enhancements like caching and CDN integration. Expert support, scalable infrastructure, and performance monitoring empower developers to build fast, stable sites. Nexcess simplifies hosting management while maximizing Craft's capabilities.

Craft CMS and Nexcess Hosting

Overview of Craft CMS

What is Craft CMS? Craft CMS is a flexible, user-friendly content management system that empowers both developers and content creators. Known for its intuitive interface and robust feature set, Craft CMS helps businesses and organizations build custom web and mobile experiences that engage their audiences.

Unlike traditional CMS platforms that take a one-size-fits-all approach, Craft CMS is built to be customized. Developers can tap into hundreds of plugins and integrations to add only the functionality needed. The frontend is also completely customizable with the templating language Twig. This makes Craft CMS ideal for launching complex, bespoke digital projects.

From marketing agencies and SaaS companies to nonprofits and universities, Craft CMS powers a diverse range of sites. It excels at managing content-heavy websites with advanced functionality like user registration, ecommerce, and multi-language support. Some of the most popular use cases for Craft CMS include:

  • Building content/document management systems

  • Managing multi-site installations

  • Developing headless websites decoupled from the frontend

  • Launching online stores and ecommerce sites

  • Creating membership sites and online courses

With its developer-friendly architecture and versatile features, Craft provides endless options for crafting custom digital experiences.

Introducing Nexcess Hosting

Founded in 2000, Nexcess is a leading web hosting and managed services provider headquartered in Michigan, USA. They offer a range of infrastructure solutions including shared hosting, virtual private servers, dedicated servers, and managed cloud hosting.

Nexcess runs its own global cloud infrastructure, engineered for optimal performance, stability, and security. Their infrastructure boasts 17 points of presence, DDoS protection, and redundant servers/network. With expertise in hosting CMS platforms like WordPress and Magento, Nexcess also specializes in optimized hosting for Craft CMS.

In addition to infrastructure, Nexcess provides fully managed hosting services and support. Their team of engineers help monitor, manage, and scale Craft CMS installs. With expertise gained from nearly two decades of hosting experience, Nexcess is well-equipped to handle the hosting needs of Craft CMS sites. 

Benefits of Nexcess for Craft CMS

Choosing the right hosting environment is crucial for delivering fast, reliable Craft CMS website performance. Nexcess offers numerous advantages that make them an ideal hosting partner:

Speed and Caching - Nexcess configures and optimizes servers specifically for Craft's resource needs. Features like LiteSpeed web server, Redis caching, and CDN integration accelerate site performance.

Scalability - Nexcess cloud infrastructure allows easy vertical and horizontal scaling to accommodate traffic spikes. Auto-scaling and load balancing prevent slowdowns.

Security - Nexcess safeguards servers and networks with firewalls, DDoS mitigation, VPNs, round-the-clock monitoring, and other security layers.

Reliability - With redundant servers, power, network, Nexcess maintains 99.9% uptime. Backups, monitoring, and disaster recovery further boost reliability.

Craft CMS Expertise - Nexcess has deep knowledge of optimizing hosting for Craft gained from years of working closely with the platform.

Managed Services - Nexcess engineers proactively monitor servers and Craft installs to fix issues before they arise. They handle backups, updates, troubleshooting etc.

Top-Notch Support - Nexcess prides itself on providing exceptional 24/7/365 support. Their UK-based support team promptly resolves technical issues.

Affordability - Nexcess offers hosting packages scaled for projects big and small. Their premium infrastructure comes at competitive rates.

By leveraging Nexcess' optimized hosting, robust infrastructure, and managed services, Craft CMS sites can achieve the speed, scale, and reliability needed to drive results. Their deep expertise in Craft hosting makes Nexcess an ideal choice.

Setting up Craft CMS on Nexcess Hosting

Creating a Nexcess Account

The first step in hosting Craft CMS with Nexcess is creating an account and choosing a suitable hosting plan. Nexcess offers a range of plans optimized for Craft, including shared hosting, cloud VPS, and dedicated servers.

When signing up, you'll select a monthly plan based on site traffic, resources needed, and budget. Nexcess streamlines setup with bundled plans that have Craft requirements pre-configured - like PHP versions, Memcached, and more. Those new to Craft may want to start with a shared plan and upgrade as needed.

During signup, you'll provide basic contact info and payment method. Nexcess offers monthly billing so you can cancel or upgrade anytime. You'll then configure server settings like preferred datacenter location and PHP runtime versions.

Nexcess provides an onboarding checklist covering basics like adding domain names and setting up email. Their customer support can also walk you through account setup if needed. Overall, getting started with Nexcess hosting takes just a few minutes.

Installing Craft CMS on Nexcess

Once your hosting account is provisioned, you can deploy Craft CMS with a few quick steps:

  1. Upload Craft CMS files to the server via FTP or git. All major Craft versions are supported.

  2. Create a database and user in Nexcess Control Panel under Database Management. Set permissions to allow access to the Craft install.

  3. Configure Craft's database credentials in .env using details from the Nexcess Control Panel. Set proper environments like dev, staging, production.

  4. Run composer install on the server to update plugins and dependencies. Nexcess keeps PHP/extensions updated for compatibility.

  5. Visit your Craft URL and complete the web-based installation steps like setting site name, creating admin account etc.

That's it! With files uploaded and database connected, Craft will be installed and ready to configure. Nexcess optimizes servers for the latest Craft requirements so you avoid environment-related issues.

Their support team is also Craft experts that can assist if you get stuck during the install process. They may help tweak server-level settings to get Craft running smoothly.

Initial Craft CMS Configuration

After installing Craft on your Nexcess hosting, there are some initial configuration steps to get your site fully ready:

  • Set the site/CMS name, description, default language and other general settings under Admin > Settings.

  • Create additional admin accounts for your team if needed under Admin > Users. Set up user permissions.

  • Install/configure any plugins like SEOmatic, Contact Form, Redactor etc under Admin > Plugin Store.

  • Add site sections, category groups, global sets via Admin > Sections/Categories/Globals.

  • If using multi-language, configure languages/translations under Settings > Sites.

  • Set up local and cloud asset volumes under Assets to manage images, documents, videos etc.

  • For ecommerce stores, configure payment gateways, shipping, taxes under Store settings.

  • Test frontend by creating sample entries and pages. Set up navigation, search, categories etc.

  • For improved performance, enable caching and CDN for assets under Settings > Assets.

  • For multi-server setups, configure environment configs to keep environments separate.

  • Integrate withheadless CMS tools like CraftQL and GraphQL if going headless.

  • Review server-based settings like PHP version, extensions in Nexcess Control Panel.

  • Configure regular database/file backups under Nexcess Backup Manager.

With those initial configuration steps completed, your Craft CMS site should be ready for content creation and further development. As needed, tweak settings to enable/disable features and plugins.

The Nexcess team can provide ongoing management and support to help optimize your Craft site's performance and functionality. Their expertise allows tapping into Craft's full capabilities on top of Nexcess hosting.

Optimizing Craft CMS Performance on Nexcess

Server Optimization for Craft CMS

Tuning the backend server environment is crucial for achieving fast page loads and response times with Craft CMS. Nexcess leverages various performance optimizations at the server level tailored specifically for Craft's needs. By updating to the latest PHP versions and enabling opcache for caching compiled PHP code, Nexcess improves PHP execution speeds.

They also adjust opcache memory settings based on each site's traffic and requirements to maximize caching benefits. The nginx web server is configured with optimal worker processes according to server cores for enhanced concurrent connections. Other web server optimizations include enabling gzip compression for text-based responses and configuring cache headers for browser caching of static resources.

To reduce trips to the database, object caching with Redis is enabled to cache elements, entries and other data globally. The Redis memory limits are tuned by Nexcess based on the hosting plan's resources. On top of caching, server resources like PHP memory limits and max execution times are configured with Craft-friendly defaults that can be further adjusted based on application requirements.

Following Craft performance best practices like enabling template caching, aggregating asset requests and optimizing expensive queries also improves application efficiency. Integrating a content delivery network caches assets globally and offloads work from the origin servers. With their optimized LEMP stack, performance profiling capabilities, and Craft CMS expertise, Nexcess fine-tunes the server environment for maximum throughput and speed.

Database Optimization for Craft

The database tier plays a significant role in Craft CMS's responsiveness. Nexcess focuses on database optimization techniques like indexing and caching to accelerate queries. Adding indexes on frequently queried Fields, Sections and Entries tables allows MySQL to quickly locate records without scanning entire tables. Database query caching via Redis avoids duplicate queries hitting MySQL repeatedly.

For sites with heavy traffic, allocating sufficient MySQL memory improves InnoDB buffer cache hits for faster index lookups. Connection pooling is used to reuse database connections instead of opening a new connection for every query. This reduces overhead from repeated connect-disconnect cycles.

For large databases, setting up MySQL replication improves performance by distributing reads across multiple nodes. Nexcess also uses Percona Toolkit to automatically analyze workloads and implement MySQL tuning. For custom complex queries, database query caching plugins can be used to cache results that are slow to calculate but consistent across pageloads. With proactive database optimizations, Nexcess ensures Craft CMS sites can deliver swift page loads and backend throughput.

Frontend Optimization for Craft

While the server and database optimizations speed up backend throughput, frontend performance depends on other factors like assets and caching. Nexcess configures CDNs to serve assets from edge locations near users for reduced latency and server offloading. Images are optimized by resizing, compression, WebP conversion and lazy loading to lower page weight. Enabling gzip and brotli compression reduces transfer sizes for text-based assets.

Cache headers prompt browser caching of static resources while avoiding caching of pages. Nexcess also minifies and concatenates CSS and Javascript to minimize requests and payload sizes.

By performance testing with Lighthouse and WebPageTest, frontend bottlenecks can be identified and addressed. The fast underlying network and infrastructure provided by Nexcess further accelerates asset delivery and overall frontend performance. With these optimizations combined with the tuned backend environment, Craft CMS sites hosted on Nexcess can achieve swift page loads and responsive experiences for visitors. The Nexcess team works closely with Craft developers to apply the ideal optimizations for each project and use case.

Nexcess Management Tools for Craft CMS

Automation Tools

Managing infrastructure and application workflows manually can become complex and time-consuming as projects scale. Nexcess provides automation capabilities that simplify management of Craft CMS sites. Backup tasks can be scheduled to automatically backup files, databases, and cloud storage assets at desired intervals. This ensures data is regularly protected against loss. Staging sites can be spun up on demand by cloning the production environment's codebase and database. Staging sites enable testing updates and changes prior to deployment. Developers can also leverage automation for CI/CD pipelines by connecting repositories to auto-sync code changes from GitHub, GitLab etc.

When traffic spikes occur, having servers and resources scale automatically prevents potential slowdowns or outages. Nexcess auto-scaling tools allow configuring rules that dynamically add RAM, CPU cores, storage and other resources during sudden surges. Entire servers can even be cloned to instantly introduce new capacity by duplicating configs, accounts and data.

For the frontend, CDN and caching rules are automated based on best practices for asset and static resource delivery. Monitoring alerts notify site owners when thresholds are exceeded for traffic, disk space, uptime metrics and other critical performance indicators. Keeping servers automatically updated with the latest security patches also reduces risk of vulnerabilities.

With workflow automation, Nexcess brings devops capabilities to simplify management while adding scalability and reliability for Craft CMS projects. Automation enables developers to focus on building applications rather than infrastructure management.

Performance Monitoring

Nexcess offers comprehensive performance monitoring covering the full application and infrastructure stack. Key metrics like overall uptime and page load speeds help benchmark reliability and responsiveness. Tracking bandwidth usage, traffic volume and request metrics provides visibility into usage patterns and growth. Monitoring server resources such as RAM, CPU and disk utilisation aids capacity planning and identifying when scaling is needed. Access to application logs within Craft, PHP and other components simplifies diagnosing issues when they arise.

For the database, query performance and frequency can be profiled to detect slow or duplicate queries in need of optimisation. CDN analytics provide insight into cache hit rate, origin traffic reductions and bandwidth delivered for asset performance. With holistic monitoring capabilities, developers can optimize efficiency at all layers of the technology stack. Historical performance data further informs scaling needs and capacity planning.

Security and Access Controls

As a fully managed infrastructure platform, Nexcess incorporates defense-in-depth security for protecting Craft CMS sites. Network firewalls, DDoS mitigation, VPN encryption and TLS/SSL encrypt traffic while blocking threats. Role-based access controls restrict infrastructure actions to authorized team members only. MFA adds further protection for account logins.

Keeping PHP and other configurations current ensures applications have the latest security capabilities enabled. Database access is limited to only the Craft CMS application while backups provide data recovery capabilities. Proper file permissions and ownership prevent unauthorized access to sensitive files.

Monitoring infrastructure and application activity aids auditing and detecting potential suspicious behaviors. Automated patching keeps servers updated to remediate newly discovered vulnerabilities. Regular data backups provide the ability to restore after any potential security incidents. Within Craft CMS itself, native user roles and permissions can be leveraged to control access to CMS capabilities. With multilayered preventative security measures, Nexcess enables securely building, hosting and managing Craft CMS projects.

Migrating Craft CMS Sites to Nexcess

Pre-Migration Steps

Migrating an existing Craft CMS site to Nexcess hosting requires careful planning and preparation to minimize downtime and issues during the transition. It's important to start by fully auditing the current site setup including the Craft version, plugins used, configuration, traffic patterns, and infrastructure resources needed. This information helps determine the optimal server stack and plan on Nexcess. The migration method should also be chosen such as backup and restore, git push, or rsync file copy based on the site's specific needs and size. Larger, more complex sites may benefit from automated migration tools to reduce manual work.

A detailed migration plan should outline the stages, timeline, and step-by-step procedures involved. Scheduling maintenance windows helps limit downtime disruptions for users. Cloning the current site environment to a Nexcess staging server beforehand allows testing and working out any kinks before the actual cutover. Freezing site changes before migrating prevents content sync issues, so updates to plugins and configurations should be held off. Enabling maintenance mode, disabling cron jobs and caching, and redirecting traffic away during the migration further avoids complications. With careful auditing, testing, and planning, the migration can stay on track with minimal interruptions.

Migrating Site Files and Database

When ready for the actual migration, proven practices help smoothly transition the files and database to Nexcess. First, comprehensive backups should be taken of the codebase and database from the current host for disaster recovery if needed. Backup restores should be tested to verify they work properly. Efficient methods like git pushing or rsync should be used to copy the latest codebase to Nexcess while retaining proper file ownership and permissions. The live database is dumped then imported into the Nexcess MySQL server and validated for any errors.

Craft's database configuration settings are updated to the new Nexcess credentials and connectivity confirmed. Nexcess backup migration tools can directly transfer sites from some hosts when available. The Craft site on Nexcess is placed in maintenance mode during the transition. DNS records are changed to point to the Nexcess servers and propagation monitored.

The process is closely tracked and any major errors rolled back if they appear. With DNS now directing traffic to Nexcess, maintenance mode can be disabled and the site verified as functioning properly.

Post-Migration Checklist

After fully migrating, follow-up is needed to finalize configurations and validate operations:

  • Conduct comprehensive testing of all site functionality including frontend, backend, integrations, and APIs.

  • Submit sitemaps and re-index site search rankings if migrated domains.

  • Update SSL/TLS certificates and enable HTTP/2 for added security and speed.

  • Configure CDN and caching rules optimized for site performance.

  • Use Nexcess monitoring to review site performance and address any lags noticed.

  • Scale server resources if the current stack proves insufficient for site traffic.

  • Perform final security review and harden any new threat surfaces.

  • Setup automated backups, monitoring alerts, auto scaling rules.

  • Merge any content updates from the origin site during the migration.

  • Delete original site files after full verification. Restore from backup if issues emerge.

  • Establish new support and maintenance workflows with the Nexcess team.

Careful testing and post-migration configurations ensure the newly transitioned site runs seamlessly on Nexcess hosting. The improved infrastructure and support empowers the development team to build amazing digital experiences moving forward.

Nexcess Support and Resources

Documentation and Community

Nexcess provides a robust set of self-help resources including documentation, knowledge base articles, community forums, and webinars. The searchable knowledge base contains tutorials, how-tos, and guides covering all aspects of managing hosting, servers, domains, security, backups, and more.

Active community forums allow customers to ask questions and engage with other users to get tips and solutions for issues they face. Developer documentation includes details on API usage, server configuration, architecture guides, and integration instructions. Nexcess also regularly publishes blog posts highlighting customer stories, new features, technical tips, and industry insights.

Live and on-demand webinars provide training on best practices for achieving high performance hosting, administration, and security. Specific knowledge base articles, documentation, forum tags, and webinars tailored to effectively hosting and managing Craft CMS are also available.

Browsing previous support tickets enables finding solutions to common questions and challenges other customers have faced. Leveraging these comprehensive self-help resources helps both new and experienced users master the Nexcess platform and overcome any hurdles they encounter.

Technical Support Options

When self-help falls short, Nexcess provides various technical support options to get assistance. 24/7 customer support is available around the clock via live chat, phone, and ticketing for any urgent hosting issues users face. Priority emergency assistance can be accessed for critical problems like outages or security threats needing immediate response.

The web-based ticketing system allows tracking requests and enables detailed back-and-forth troubleshooting. Optional fully managed hosting adds a dedicated support team for proactive management and maintenance.

Users can also discuss hosting strategies, configurations, and infrastructure planning directly with Nexcess support engineers. Hands-on help is offered for getting started with the hosting account, configuring domains, servers, CDN, SSL certificates and more. For diagnosing application or infrastructure problems, users can collaborate closely with Nexcess technicians through tickets or chat. With multi-channel global support and deeply experienced staff, Nexcess customers can get help tailored to their specific needs and issues.

Consulting and Advisory Services

For advanced expertise beyond standard support, Nexcess Consulting offers advisory services covering:

  • Reviewing infrastructure design and providing guidance on optimization, scaling approaches, and redundancy strategies.

  • Analyzing performance issues and recommending customized improvements to boost speed.

  • Auditing codebases for security, efficiency, infrastructure interaction issues.

  • Offering end-to-end migration assistance and expertise for moving to Nexcess.

  • Assessing infrastructure automation capabilities and enhancing workflows.

  • Identifying vulnerabilities and creating a security hardening plan.

  • Assisting with connecting applications and services through API integrations.

  • Advising on future scaling and growth strategies and roadmap planning.

  • Providing fully managed infrastructure and application management.

Tapping into Nexcess consulting enables access to much deeper technical and strategic expertise for business-critical initiatives and more complex needs.

Shape April 2022 HR 202
Andy Golpys
- Author

Andy has scaled multiple businesses and is a big believer in Craft CMS as a tool that benefits both Designer, Developer and Client. 

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