The Great VPS Con

I’ve been using Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting from various different hosts for my own sites for a few years now. I reckoned I’d outgrown shared hosting and liked the idea of having a server all to myself, expecting performance to be much better without having to share with hundreds or thousands of other sites. Its not really worked out like that though..

I currently have about 10 wordpress based sites on my VPS, only a couple of which might be construed as doing anything weird. They both have a lot of plugins and some decent traffic. But all in all, I wouldnt consider that I’m doing anything on such a massive scale to warrant the downtime and slowness problems I’ve been having for ages now. WordPress can be resource heavy but surely servers should know how to deal with it by now?

The thing that annoys me most is that the same sites didnt cause half as much trouble when they were on shared and if they did, support was available quickly and for FREE. VPS support has to be paid for as its unmanaged. I recently had a client move from my shared reseller hosting to a VPS and straight away he had terrible site/server downtime problems none of which happened on my shared. So while VPS hosting is a lot dearer per month than shared, its shared that seems to have the best specs, performance and support. What exactly are we paying for with a VPS so? Control? Is that even important? You really need to know your stuff if control and editing server settings is your thing.

In short, I think I’d only reccommend VPS hosting if you dont have a large wordpress or cms based site and know your way around server settings, but even then make sure you have your own very good reason for having a VPS rather than just thinking it sounds like a good idea or having your host talk you into it.

I’m hoping to switch back to shared soon.

Leon

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Bulk Manage WordPress Sites From 1 Location

Just came across the excellent FREE software “InfiniteWP” via a Yoast post on Facebook. I’ve got WordPress Service Contracts setup with some web design clients of mine whereby for a small yearly fee I keep their core WordPress systems and installed plugins up to date. This helps keep their sites secure, fast and modern. Previously, I would have had a plugin on their sites that notified me via email whenever there was a new version of WordPress or any of the plugins installed on a site and I’d have to go login and upgrade or sometimes manually upgrade via FTP. With 24 sites (currently) to manage that turns into a fair bit of work.

Installing InfiniteWP (as a PHP application on my own local server) and adding my clients sites to it now enables me to bulk update plugins, themes and WordPress core from one location right on my own PC in pretty much 1 click! The system requires the InfiniteWP Client plugin to be installed on all sites too which is a bit of hassle but only needs to be done once to create the connection.

The software also handles Backups, Groups and other functionality via paid add-ons..

Leon

WordPress Upgrade Service Contract

WordPress is an ever evolving system with new and updated functionality being added on a  regular basis. While it’s not strictly necessary to constantly keep your core WordPress installation and additional plugins up to date, it’s advisable to do so. Here are the benefits:

  • Keep your version of WordPress Secure,
  • Overwrite potentially corrupt or attacked files in old installs,
  • Benefit from newly added Functionality,
  • Speed up your site,
  • Benefit from plugin improvments.

The latest versions of WordPress include the ability to quickly update itself and related plugins from the admin but in my experience, this doesn’t always work smoothly. Some Hosting servers can’t handle the auto upgrade functionality at all and if upgrading breaks half way through and the process doesn’t complete, you can be left with a badly broken site.

Also, plugin versions and WordPress versions sometimes need to match and you might find that if you upgrade one, it breaks the other. The cost of having your site fixed by a web developer might be much more expensive than just preventing the problem in the first place.

My Yearly *Wordpress Service contract at just €50 per year includes the following:

  • Twice yearly upgrade of the core WordPress system,
  • Regular upgrading of installed Plugins,
  • Compatability Testing on all upgrades.

Order a service contract now.

* I say ‘contract’ but there’s no actual contract or signing of anything so you’re not tied in!

Leon

Show Product Dimensions in WooCommerce

For some strange reason the WooCommerce WordPress e-commerce plugin has options in the product admin to add a product’s Weight and Dimensions but then doesn’t show these values on the front end like some might expect. Not 100% sure if it’s a theme clash or WooCommerce bug/oversight but WooCommerce told me there’s a workaround involving product attributes. I couldn’t get this working however.

Here’s what does work though. To show product dimensions on archive pages, add the following code to your theme’s functions.php file or in a new wordpress plugin:

[php]add_action( ‘woocommerce_after_shop_loop_item_title’, ‘cj_show_dimensions’, 9 );

function cj_show_dimensions() {
global $product;
$dimensions = $product->get_dimensions();

if ( ! empty( $dimensions ) ) {
echo ‘<span class="dimensions">’ . $dimensions . ‘</span>’;
}
}[/php]

You can change the “get_dimensions” to “get_weight” if you want to show a products weight instead or additionally in a new function.

NOTE: The above code will show dimensions on archive pages like Categories, Recently Added Products, etc. If you want to show it on single product details pages, there are other WooCommerce hooks but the ones I tried wouldn’t work with my theme. If you don’t mind editing your theme files directly, adding something like this to the template file that shows the individual products, something like ‘single-product.php’, should work too:

[php]
<div class="dimensions">
<strong>Dimensions</strong>: <!–?php echo $_product—>get_dimensions(); ?>
</div>
[/php]

Don’t forget to add a .dimensions class to your theme’s css file to style the results if required.

Popular Ways to Extend Your WordPress Site

So you’ve had a basic WordPress site built for you (possibly by me!?) or put one up yourself and you’ve got your design in, pages, images and blog/news posts up and you’re pretty happy with how it all looks. Did you realise you can add to the core WordPress functionality by installing plugins to make it do almost anything you can imagine? For me, that remains probably the best feature of WordPress along with it’s ease of use.

Wordpress Plugins

So what extra things might you want WordPress to do?

Send Newsletters

Capturing email address from your website and building a database of contacts then keeping in touch with them or sending offers etc is an excellent way to market and this plugin is probably one of the most popular WordPress additions requested by my clients:

Reverbstudios.ie/706/wordpress-newsletter-plugin-review/

Sell Stuff

All business have something to sell. If it’s products then it makes sense to sell them off your own website. This plugin will do all you need including show categories, add postage, paypal and credit card payments etc..:

Reverbstudios.ie/868/wordpress-shopping-cart-plugin-review/

Capture Data & Details

It’s highly recommended that you have some kind of conversion form on your website, ie a form that gathers information from visitors either automatically (browser, operating system, referring site, etc..) or manually by asking them questions. For businesses that are service based these kind of forms can be made take a payment or deposit too:

Reverbstudios.ie/1787/gravity-forms-wordpress-form-plugin-review/

Contact me if you you’d like any of this functionality on your site.

Leon

Add a Surcharge Field to Gravity Forms to Cover Paypal Fees

Paypal remains probably the handiest way to pay for and get paid for products and services but having just done my taxes for last year, I can see that the fees I had to pay for accepting Paypal payments from clients are getting pretty significant. I’ve decided to ask people if they’d like to pay these fees or not rather than forcing it on them and I’m only asking for 50% of the fees to be paid considering both seller and buyer are benefiting from using Paypal. Fair?

The first couple of things that need to be said are these:

  1. Paypal may not like people adding surcharges to cover their fees. In fact it’s probably against their policy. I don’t know why because they would make more money.
  2. People paying for services and products may not like to see extra fees added on checkout.

Nevertheless! Here’s how to add a field that automatically calculates Paypal fees for a customer entered amount.

You’ll need a developer licence for Gravity Forms Wordpress forms plugin for this so you can grab their Paypal Add-on. A developer licence is well worth it for this excellent forms plugin. They have some other great add-ons too. See my review.

Step 1

Add a new gravity form with whatever basic informational fields you want the customer to fill out, typically Name, Phone, Email & Item just so you’ll know who’s paid and for what.

Step 2

Add 2 “Product” fields from the “Pricing Fields” menu, the first of which should be configured to take a user defined price as below. It can also be a set price as opposed to user defined:

The second Product field is the tricky one. Some maths skills are needed! This field needs to be configured as a Calculation from the “Field Type” drop down menu. In the “Formula” field I inserted the “Payment Amount” merge tag from the first Product field above. Then I added the rest of the formula to calculate the % fee as below. You’ll need to visit the Paypal Fees web page to see the exact fees in your country and for the monthly incoming Paypal volume you have personally. For me it’s 3.4% + 0.35 cents. Also remember that I’m dividing by 2 here because I’m only asking for clients to pay 50% of the fees. You can leave that out if you’re not as generous as me. Here’s the formula and setup screen:

(  ( {Payment Amount (Euros):11} * 3.4 / 100 ) +0.35 ) /2

Step 3

Add a “Total” pricing field at the end too just so people can transparently see how the fees were added.

Step 4 (Optional)

In my form, I’ve also added a “Radio Buttons” field from the Standard Fields menu which I’m using to ask the client whether they want to bother paying any of the fees or not. I don’t want to force extra payments on anyone but the addition of this field will help sort the nice clients from the not so nice ones maybe!? With this field added, you need to go into the advanced settings of the second “Surcharge” pricing field and turn on “Enable Conditional Logic” to only show the surcharge field if people have chosen “Yes” to paying the fees. See below:

Here’s a link to my form so you can see how it all comes together:

ReverbStudios.ie.Payments

Leon