A Beginner’s Guide To Creating and Running WordPress Servers


Deploying your own WordPress server is easy – a whole lot easier than you might think. However, it is very common for users to fear going down this road despite the numerous advantages that it offers. So, in this article we’ll discuss:

  • Why you might want to run your own server
  • Why you can do it even if you’ve never done it before
  • The tools that are available to make it easy to deploy your own servers
  • A full walk through to creating a server and WordPress site using one of our tools.

It’s a lot of material so let’s dive in without any more preamble…

Why Run Your Own Server?

If you’ve been around the WordPress ecosystem for a while, you’ve probably toyed with the idea of running your own WordPress server(s). There are four core reasons you might want to go down this road:

  • Costs: Deploying your own WordPress server can generally be cheaper, especially when you are running multiple WordPress sites.
  • Security: Managing your own server removes at least one third party with access to your server which reduces the attack surface.
  • Flexibility: You can do things with your own server that you simply cannot do with standard hosting services (most standardized WordPress hosting services have a variety of restrictions that are hard for them to remove on a customer-by-customer basis.)
  • Resiliency: If you run multiple sites you can deploy a server for each site in a different location so that a single server failure doesn’t take down all your sites.

Can You Do This?

The short answer to this question is Yes, yes you can!

As you contemplate whether running your own server(s) is something you want to do, the biggest question you might have probably revolves around the idea of whether you can do this or not.

If you’ve been using WordPress for at least a year, the answer is likely YES! And, if you intend to continue using WordPress or working in the WordPress space it is something we strongly encourage you to do. Digging a little deeper into WordPress will make you a better WordPress citizen all around, whether you’re a developer, power-user or end-user.

And there are now multiple tools that make it very easy to deploy and manage your own WordPress server. In some cases you can do it all without ever having to visit the command line. Think of them as “no-code” tools for WordPress servers.

The Best Choices

Our sister company that creates the core plugin running this site recently wrote an article outlining a dozen ways you can use to fire up a WordPress server. If you haven’t read that article, the high-level synopsis is that there are four categories of tools that you can choose from:

  • Single site, single server deployment directly at the cloud server providers (DigitalOcean, AWS, Linode, Vultr etc.). This tends to be the easiest method but the least flexible with the least amount of features.
  • General Purpose Linux control panels such as Plesk and cPanel.
  • Command line tools such as WordOps.
  • General Purpose SAAS management panels such as Cloudways and ServerPilot.
  • WordPress specific SAAS management panels such as SpinupWP, GridPane and, of course, our own WPCD.Cloud.

It is that last category that offers the easiest and most flexible way to deploy WordPress servers and sites. The reasons are:

  • These management panels include WordPress specific “smarts” that you will not find in any of the more general purpose ones.
  • They generally allow you to deploy servers at multiple locations and server providers
  • They allow you to deploy multiple WordPress sites on each server – something that some of the other options do not provide.
  • Their documentation tends to be highly tailored for WordPress which makes it much easier to find relevant help if you need it.

WPCD.Cloud falls into that last category and so for the rest of this article, it is what we’ll be focusing on. We’ll show you how easy it is to create and manage your own WordPress server. The hardest part of this process will actually be linking your DigitalOcean account to your WPCD.Cloud Account. After that, creating servers and sites is a breeze!

Getting Started

For this article you need two things to get started:

  1. An account on our site here at WPCD.Cloud and
  2. An account at DigitalOcean where you will be deploying your servers

Once you’ve gotten those two accounts set up, you will need to do three things to get the accounts linked:

  1. Create and upload an SSH keypair to DigitalOcean.
  2. Create an API key at DigitalOcean.
  3. Use the API Key to link your WPCD.Cloud dashboard to your Digital Ocean Account.

1. Create An SSH Key Pair

SSH keys are used to log into your servers – WPCD.Cloud does NOT use passwords for server access. So, if you do not already have an ssh key-pair, creating one is the first thing you’ll need to do. Then you will upload the public key portion to Digital Ocean.

  • Create the keypair by following the instructions in our help article on this topic.
  • After creating the keypair, log into your Digital Ocean account.
  • Click on the Settings menu option on the left hand menu bar – it will be close to the bottom of your screen.
  • On the settings screen click on the SECURITY tab.
  • You will see a section called SSH Keys – click on the Add SSH Key button – it’s usually to the right of the section header. This will result in a small popup screen.
  • Copy the text from the PUBLIC file of your ssh key pair and paste it into the first box.
  • Give it a name
  • Click the Add SSH Key button to save the key.

2. Create A Digital Ocean API Key

  • Log into your Digital Ocean account.
  • On the left side of the dashboard you’ll see an option called API – its usually located closer to the bottom of the screen under the ACCOUNT section. Or you can use this link to navigate directly there if you’re already logged in.
  • In the API screen click the Generate New Token button and give the token a name on the popup Screen. Please make sure that the WRITE scope is checked (it is usually checked by default)
  • Click the blue Generate Token button
  • You will be taken back to the list of tokens and shown the token. Make sure you COPY the token and store it in a safe place – it will not be shown to you again!

3. Link Your WPCD.Cloud Account To Digital Ocean

Now that you have your DigitalOcean API token it’s time to configure your WPCD.Cloud account.

  • Log into your WPCD.Cloud Account
  • Navigate to Servers and Sites->Settings
  • Click on the Cloud Providers tab.
  • Enter the API key you generated in the prior section.
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the screen and click the Save Settings button.
  • Now, you should see the drop-down in SSH keys section with the list of public keys from your DigitalOcean account. Paste the corresponding PRIVATE KEY text from your keypair files into the private SSH key field.
  • If your key pair has a password, enter that into the Private SSH Key Password field.
  • Click the Save Settings button.

At this point, your accounts are linked. It’s time to create your first server.

Create A Server

Creating a WordPress server is easy now that your accounts are linked.

  • Navigate to Servers and Sites->All Cloud Servers.
  • Click the Provision A New WordPress Server button at the top of the screen.
  • In the popup screen you can select your server location, size and enter a name for your server.
  • Click the green Start button.

The server will start to build. This can take as long as 20 minutes depending on the size of the server you selected and how busy Digital Ocean is at the time.

When it is complete, you will see a popup and the close button will appear.

Click the close button or click on the All Cloud Servers menu option to see your first server in the server list. If you go to your Digital Ocean dashboard you’ll see the server there as well.

Create your first WordPress site

So now you have a server but you do not have any WordPress sites on the server. So it’s time to create one. This also is super simple:

  • Navigate to Servers and Sites->All Cloud Servers.
  • Click on the Install WordPress button on your server row. This will show a popup screen.
  • Fill out the data requested – it’s the usual suspects: domain, admin name and password, admin email address. Then, click the green Install button.

The site will start to build. It should take about 5 minutes or less:

When it is complete, you will see a popup and the close button will appear.

To start managing your new site, click on the WordPress sites menu option.

Managing Your New Site

As with any other WordPress service, in order to access your site you need to make sure that your DNS has been updated to point to your new server’s ip. The IP address for the new server can be obtained from either the Server screen or the site screen – it is shown in many locations.

To verify that your DNS is updated, click on the Login To Admin Area link. It is under the App Summary column. If you see the WordPress login screen and you can log in using the credentials you specified when creating the site, you are all set to take the next step.

Generate an SSL Certificate

One of the first things you probably want to do is generate an SSL certificate for your site. You can only do this is your DNS has been updated correctly.

  • Navigate to Servers and Sites->WordPress Sites.
  • Click on your site domain name under the TITLE column. This will take you to the detail screen for the site with all kinds of cool options.
  • Click on the SSL link/tab.
  • Click on the SSL Status toggle

This will cause WPCD.Cloud to reach out to LetsEncrypt and request a new certificate for the domain. As long as the DNS is updated and there are no weird proxies used by the DNS Name Servers, this operation should be successful.

Once the SSL certificate is updated, you can click on the Login To Admin Area link again. This time it should show up as an encrypted page.

What’s Next

At this point you can start building out your new site inside the site’s WordPress dashboard as well as import an existing site.

You can also configure other things inside the WPCD.Cloud dashboard such as:

  • Backups
  • sFTP users
  • Caching if you expect your site to be a busy one

Some additional tasks you should consider is covered in this article: 8 things to do after deploying a new site.

And, you can also create a new site on your server – i.e.: your server can host multiple sites. So if you pay DigitalOcean, say, $20.00 per month for a server, you can host as many sites as the server can handle – which is a whole lot cheaper than what you’d pay for the same number of sites at a classic host.

Wrap Up

Deploying your own WordPress server is easy once you get through the process of linking your accounts. And deploying new WordPress sites is even easier. After a site is deployed, almost every action you normally need to perform on a WordPress server or site you can do from the WPCD.Cloud dashboard – no command line necessary!

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