When easier isn’t (or: Why I typically avoid using managed hosting like Flywheel)

I’ve been building websites since there was no alternative to the command line when it came to configuring web servers. Well… unless you were using a Mac as a server, which didn’t have a command line back then. (And, yes, it could be done. The ISP I started working at in 1996 ran entirely on Macs, except for one Sun SPARCstation we were using as a DNS server.)

I still prefer the command line, and when I have a choice, I build web servers on a VPS from a vanilla install of Ubuntu Linux. I used to use Digital Ocean, but now Linode is my preferred host.

But if a client already has their site hosted somewhere else, I’ll work with what they’ve got. I take the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. As long as the client doesn’t have major issues with their current hosting provider, it’s usually much easier to keep things where they are than to move their site somewhere else.

Even if that current hosting provider offers, ah-hem, “Managed WordPress Hosting.” I cringe at that phrase, because what it really means is that I have less control to set things up the way I like.

The way I like things isn’t the way they have to be, of course, but it would be nice if their easy-to-use tools actually made things easier to use.

Let’s take rewrites, for instance. Editing the .htaccess file can be a dark art, but once you know the basics and can handle regular expressions, it’s not that difficult.

Launching a new site that’s replacing an existing one almost always involves setting up rewrites. You want to make sure URLs from the old site, especially ones that people might have bookmarked or, even more importantly, Google might have indexed, automatically shunt users over to the corresponding URL of the new site.

Often a client will give me a fairly large spreadsheet of URLs to map. Setting this up in a text file, especially if you use an editor with good find-and-replace, is a snap.

Flywheel offers SFTP access to your site, and it even contains an .htaccess file