Why We Switched To Pantheon & So Should You

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Watching our business grow as Caldera Forms has become more popular, active on over 100,000 WordPress sites as of this week, is very exciting. But, growth always comes with new problems. These are good problems to have, but they still need addressed. Our site, as you might have noticed if you used our site in the earlier part of the summer, couldn’t scale to meet the demands of our business. It was causing us problems, it was hurting our customers.

Not having a website that could keep up with the growth of our business was driving Christie and I nuts and I was spending more and more time applying band-aids to it. Not anymore. We switched to Pantheon and I can’t fully explain how much better this has made our lives. In this article I will try and explain some of the reasons why we like and recommend Pantheon, but I can’t explain how much happier my life is having a hosting platform that can scale with our business.

What You Should Look For In A WordPress Host

There are a lot of WordPress managed hosts out there. At this point the terms has lost all of its meaning. The three top things I look for these days in a host are do they have free SSL, do they support PHP7 and is their static page caching system built with WordPress in mind? Pantheon offers all three of these things, and their static cache is integrated with a very impressive CDN that I’m kind of shocked they include in their lowest-priced plans.

Free SSL

Right now, you don’t technically need an SSL certificate to use WordPress, but you should. Starting in October, Google Chrome will start marking any page with a form as insecure if its not loaded over HTTPS, which requires a valid SSL certificate. SSL certificates used to be expensive and complicated to implement. Lets Encrypt made SSL certificates free, but not easy. Also, WordPress will soon start shipping HTTPS-only features.

Pantheon now offers free SSL certificates from Lets Encrypt and make the whole process super simple. When we migrated to Pantheon, I literally clicked a button, waited less than an hour and it just worked.

It’s also worth noting that Pantheon staging sites have SSL by default. This is essential for testing an eCommerce site since payment gateways require SSL. This used to be something that was a big frustration for me in the past — I couldn’t test checkout with a real credit card on a staging site, since it didn’t have SSL. With Pantheon I can do this by default.

PHP7

While WordPress is moving to encourage HTTPS adoption, the project still supports PHP 5.2, which hasn’t had security support for over a decade. For security and performance reasons, all WordPress sites should use PHP7. It’s 2X or greater faster, will have security support longer than PHP5.

Pantheon makes it very easy to move to PHP7, which was a requirement for us. Our site literally would not work with PHP5 do to a lot of custom code and certain PHP7 only plugins we’re using. As more developers take advantage of the language improvements in PHP7, sticking with outdated PHP will be less of a viable solution.

Caching & A CDN Designed For WordPress

A CDN helps improve the performance of your site by loading static resources — CSS, images, JavaScript, etc — from a server located as close as possible to the site visitor as possible. Many hosts offer CDNs, also there are many third-party solutions, but I’ve never seen a CDN and caching system for WordPress as well done as Pantheon’s global CDN when using their Advanced Page Cache plugin. With this plugin in place they not only serve CSS, JavaScript and images, but also the static cached version of the page itself.

Traffic to our site is only about 20-30% from the United States. Having a global solution for WordPress site performance is essential to our growing eCommerce business and Pantheon delivered on that front. As someone who has been doing support for WordPress plugins for years now, I know the danger of having a host that makes you rely on plugins for caching, instead of handling it on the server or even worse having a host that sets up the cache without understanding. Pantheon sets up caching in a way that works flawlessly with Caldera Forms, Easy Digital Downloads and other plugins we use.

Try It For Yourself

We’ve been through a few hosts for this site, including self-managing a VPS. But, nothing has worked as well as Pantheon does. And, it works great with Caldera Forms. Pantheon didn’t always offer free SSL on their lowest-priced plans, which was the only reason I wasn’t recommending them to a lot of people, despite having always had a great product. Now that they do offer that, and the global CDN, I strongly recommend Pantheon to everyone.

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