A growing number of web design and development agencies are seeking to provide fast, reliable web hosting services on the Windows platform for PHP-based applications like WordPress. Applied Innovations, a web hosting company based in Florida, is responding by using the rich tools and resources available from Microsoft to provide fast, reliable web hosting services on the Windows platform.
Applied Innovations is a web hosting company specializing in technology and services for individuals and small to medium-sized businesses, including agencies that provide web design and development. Founded in 1999, the firm manages more than 25,000 websites running on 500 dedicated physical servers and about 2,000 virtual servers.
Jess Coburn, President and Chief Executive Officer of Applied Innovations, has run the company’s web operations on the Windows platform since the company’s 1999 launch. “Microsoft has always had a strong, integrated set of products,” he says. “What drew me to Windows was the power and flexibility of the Microsoft web development tools.”
Starting around 2008, Coburn and others in the web publishing industry witnessed the increasing popularity of WordPress, an open-source application for creating and publishing blogs. WordPress is based on a template system and provides users with multiple ways to customize the look of their blogs through widgets and themes. WordPress was designed around the “LAMP” technology set—the Linux operating system, Apache HTTP servers, MySQL database software, and the PHP scripting language used for creating dynamic web pages. However, the reliance on the LAMP technologies for using WordPress became problematic for an increasing number of web agencies—and the hosting companies they work with—who want to use the Windows platform.
“It was frustrating for a lot of web agencies that wanted to continue using WordPress while taking advantage of the tools, support, and global community offered on the Windows platform,” says Coburn.Solution
Applied Innovations became a proponent of running WordPress on the Windows platform, particularly after enhancements made by Microsoft to its Internet Information Services (IIS) technology, a component of the Windows Server operating system used for web server tasks. “Microsoft has been very proactive in providing continual enhancements to Internet Information Services, making Windows an excellent platform for hosting WordPress,” Coburn says.
Enhancements and innovations include the Windows Cache Extension (WinCache) for PHP, an accelerator that increases the speed of PHP-based applications such as WordPress. Another innovation is WebMatrix, a set of Windows technologies for developing and deploying websites. It includes full support for installing, publishing, and running PHP applications on Windows-based servers. Microsoft created the URL Rewriter, a free extension for IIS, which simplifies the creation of web addresses that are easy for people to remember and boosts the results of search engine queries. Microsoft also enhanced FastCGI—a protocol that links external applications to web servers—to make it easier to put more WordPress sites on a shared server while retaining high levels of performance.
Applied Innovations also takes advantage of the feature-rich, tightly integrated Microsoft products that help the company manage thousands of hosted sites. These include the IIS 7.0 Administration Pack, which provides a set of management features for tasks such as FastCGI configuration; Advanced Logging, which monitors and measures media content to deliver insights into how users are engaging with web content; the IIS 7 Manager for Remote Administration, which gives administrators the ability to securely manage remote IIS 7 servers from their desktop PCs; and the Windows PowerShell Snap-In, which automates both simple and complex administrative tasks.Benefits
By hosting WordPress-based websites on Windows, Applied Innovations is providing greater choice and flexibility for web agencies—and more opportunities for its own business. The Windows platform provides greater control and efficiency for website customers in running their WordPress sites. The integrated Microsoft tools help streamline the daily tasks involving in running a web hosting operation. Windows also provides a stable, high-performance environment in which web hosting companies can be highly responsive to their customers.
More Efficiency in Managing Sites
The ability to host WordPress on Windows gives web companies more control over website deployments. “The control panels that hosting providers give their customers usually expose only a subset of all the features available on a web server,” says Coburn. “With IIS Manager for Remote Administration, we can delegate a much larger set of administrative rights, allowing our customers to handle more management tasks themselves through the intuitive Windows interface. It helps reduce delays and errors due to miscommunication, and empowers our customers to be more involved in the daily administration of their sites.”
Tightly Integrated Tools for Hosting
The Windows platform is a strong choice for web hosting companies, says Coburn. “I managed UNIX-based web servers for five years,” he says. “While UNIX and Linux are widely used, the available tools tend to be poorly integrated, which makes an administrator’s job more difficult. The Windows platform provides a tightly integrated, rich toolset that can save time during daily administrative tasks. And in my experience, the Windows platform is as fast and reliable as UNIX and Linux for hosting websites, and allows for consolidating multiple web platforms onto a single server. That results in a unified infrastructure that can save on money, time, and administrative resources.”
Reliable, Stable, and Responsive
Along with speed and reliability, Coburn notes that the Microsoft support for PHP applications running on Windows means that hosting companies like Applied Innovations can find quick solutions to common hosting issues. For example, a design and development company that partners with Applied Innovations was experiencing periodic server timeouts on some of its customers’ sites. Applied Innovations was able to quickly resolve the issue. “It was a straightforward fix,” says Coburn. “We enabled WinCache and tweaked FastCGI. The Windows platform provides the tools needed to address issues that commonly occur in web hosting.”This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.