There are countless web hosts available all over the world and the vast majority of which meet the WordPress minimum requirements. However, membership sites require more than WordPress minimums alone, and not all hosts are created equal. When choosing a hosting partner you want to consider a number of features like support, performance, and scalability as these features tend to need flexibility as a site grows. If a host does not offer plans which you can grow into, you can be faced with challenges that can hinder your business with expensive and time-consuming resolutions.



Hosting / Server Minimum Requirements


Quality hosting providers typically have these requirements, but whichever hosting you choose, you need to ensure that the server has the following requirements to run MemberMouse:

  • WordPress 5.0 or above
  • PHP 7.4 or greater
  • MySQL 5.6 or greater OR MariaDB 10.1 or greater
  • Nginx or Apache with mod_rewrite module
  • HTTPS support
  • PHP Shortcodes must be enabled
  • cURL must be enabled
  • cURL, JSON, and Multibyte String PHP extensions installed
  • support for TLS 1.2 encryption protocol
  • support for the SHA-256 encryption algorithm and the hash_hmac function
  • Memory limit set up at least 256MB
  • No firewalls blocking access from our licensing server (this is used to validate your license)
  • If the server has a caching mechanism, you need the ability to control any server caching to omit pages and functions
  • Please check you also have permissions to write to the WordPress plugins folder (/wp-content/plugins/)


These are the very least of requirements, and the more plugins and features you use may require more advanced resources, such as PHP Version 8 and above, higher amounts of memory that extend beyond 750M, and full control over PHP requirements.



General Rules For Your Hosting Environment


  1. Cheap hosting is not a good option. The very foundation of your business will run on it and it is essential to allocate an effective budget for it.

  2. Try to avoid 'shared hosting', unless absolutely necessary.  --  If you are on a shared host now, you may be able to upgrade to a VPS level plan easily/cheaply.  Contact your webhost for upgrade options.

  3. Avoid 'managed WordPress' plans.

  4. Avoid 'Windows' hosting/servers. Choose 'Linux' options.

  5. Quality hosting generally costs from $30 to $100 a month on the lower end of the scale when you include backups, staging, CDNs, dedicated IPs, SSLs, caching, and email.

  6. You will need a dedicated IP along with an SSL to secure checkout and your logins.

  7. If your host aggressively caches, make sure you can turn it off or ignore certain URLs on your site.  
     


Varnish caching and Lightspeed are common methods for server caching and if your host uses them, or any other server-level caching, please be sure to read over this article on the configuration of your server caching to be sure that none of the MemberMouse files, nor pages are being cached.

If you have WP Engine specifically, read this article to learn more about configuring WP Engine for MemberMouse.



When Choosing A Hosting Plan, There Are Generally Four Options:

  1. Shared Hosting and Managed WordPress Hosting - These plans should be avoided - This is the lowest tier and the least expensive option intended for simple websites. Shared hosting plans often have hundreds of clients and thousands of websites on one server that must share the system resources. If one site is particularly resource intensive, it affects everyone. Some additional downsides of using shared hosting are:

    • They tend to have higher chances of bot attacks

    • Email sending is limited and system emails may not go out during high user activity

    • If you overuse your allotted resources, you can get your resources limited which severely slows a site’s functionality

  2. Virtual Private Server (VPS) - This is the minimum recommended plan for MemberMouse - This option is midway between shared hosting and dedicated servers. These servers are still shared but contain far fewer accounts, and instead of pooled resources, each account is allotted a percentage of the CPU and memory exclusively for its use. So regardless of what the other accounts are doing, it won't affect your available resources.

    These accounts typically come with terminal access and can require some knowledge of system administration to handle updates and configure system services like PHP. Most importantly, a VPS gives you complete control over your environment and is the most cost-effective way to ensure the system you are using meets all of your needs.

  3. Dedicated - Required for larger membership sites - This is the higher tier option. With this option, you are leasing the entire server. These can be pricey, but necessary once you start accruing large numbers of active members and stretching the limit of what VPS can provide. Aside from the cost of the server itself, there can potentially be costs to manage it and configure it.

  4. Cloud Hosting - Very effective advanced hosting solution with higher costs and management requirements - Cloud hosting is a type of web hosting which uses multiple different servers to balance the load and maximize uptime. Instead of using a single server, your website can tap into a “cluster” that uses resources from a centralized pool. This means that even if one server fails, another kicks in to keep everything running. These servers are typically extremely flexible in size and configuration and can produce very fast websites, but they do require an elevated amount of knowledge to manage.

    If the cost for Cloud Hosting and the management of it is in your budget, it is the preferred method for popular websites with heavy usage.



Do I Need To Upgrade My Hosting To Use MemberMouse?


You can run a small membership site on shared hosting, but you will run into obstructions that can seriously hinder your business and it is not advisable to run a membership site on shared hosting. Running a membership site requires more processing power and memory than running a traditional website. The key with hosting is to always have more resources than needed to handle spikes in usage.


API calls to payment vendors, email integrations, pages pulling in member information, administration activity, and more, all run heavily behind the scenes as a visitor uses your site, and if multiple visitors are performing actions at one time, they will most surely see a change in performance if hosting is not more than adequate. 


Shared hosting can be problematic if it has aggressive caching. You can not cache a membership site like a typical website and the caching, if not adjustable, will not work with a membership site.


Additional considerations are that you will need automated server backups, and the ability to send high numbers of system emails. Server backups are essential for disaster recovery and you cannot rely on backup plugins as they do not back up all the tables and files within a membership site. And with system emails, many shared hosts will limit the number of emails you can send and this is something that needs to be considered before your site becomes live.


You may want to develop on a shared server, but consider getting something like a VPS before going live. Upgrading to a different server after being live for some time is stressful, and potentially problematic.



Problems We've Seen With Some Hosting Providers That Prevent MemberMouse From Functioning Properly


Hosting providers that specifically advertise themselves as a "WordPress Hosting Provider" are usually specifically configuring their servers for a basic WordPress site. This can inadvertently cause issues with any unique software that runs on their servers, such as membership or cart software as well as the add-ons commonly used with them.


It is important to be wary of plans that are "managed WordPress" plans because the customer has no control over the core files,  when anything is updated, or the caching mechanisms which may control it. 


MemberMouse does not recommend using a managed WordPress host, nor a plan specifically designed for WordPress. Some hosting plans we have seen issues with that were not able to be resolved are:

  •  GoDaddy's and HostGator's shared hosting plans, including GoDaddy's Managed WP. Upgrading to the lower-tiered VPS plans has fixed the problems and was a painless upgrade for our customers. 

  • Pantheon Shared hosting also configures their servers to exclude options that do not allow MemberMouse to function properly.


Top Recommendations


It's very tricky to recommend hosting providers because of all the variables involved. Even on a single hosting provider the majority of our customers could run MemberMouse without issue while a small few will inexplicably run into issues.

With that said the basic hosting provider we're currently recommending is Kinsta (full disclosure: we're an affiliate of theirs).

The reason we recommend them is because they're very affordable and we've had minimal instances of our customers running into issues with them.

If you're thinking about migrating servers make sure to read this article before you do so: Migrating MemberMouse to a New Server


Other Recommended Hosting Providers


WordPress has their own list of recommended hosting providers which they feel are the top hosting providers for running WordPress. Their list includes Bluehost, DreamHost and SiteGround


The hosting providers mentioned above certainly don't represent a complete list of hosting providers that will work for WordPress and MemberMouse. These are just the ones that we know work well in all areas or are recommended by WordPress themselves.