It's 2021. WordPress hosting has quite a landscape of choices. Some exceptionally popular like WPEngine, Siteground, Kinsta, and WPX.
But there are others out there, and one in particular I wish more knew about: Closte.
This is one of those services that is practically a secret on the Internet for some reason. With all these various hosts out there with big claims of performance and security, Closte blows them all out of the water.
We're all in search of a fast WordPress host. Right?
This one is insanely fast, built on some of the best technology out there, and at the same time doesn’t break your bank.
The catch is you have to know what you’re doing, it’s more technical to set up. But once you set it up correctly it’s really fast, secure, doesn’t cost much, and is ready to scale in real-time.
It uses a technology called Litespeed. A Web server designed from the ground up to be pure performance.
And it delivers in spades.
An impressive technology stack
Not only does it use the Lightspeed web server software, but it is also based on the Google Cloud Platform — that’s right, you get WordPress on the Google cloud — one of the fastest, most reliable, platforms in the world used by huge name brands such as Coca-Cola.
And what if I told you — you also get full access to one of the best caching plugins there is for WordPress. At no additional charge.
Sounds like something you would want for your own website right?
OK so why Closte?
Okay... if I have enticed you to visit Closte’s site, you landed on a relatively boring design that isn't exactly the most inspiring. It doesn't exude pure performance and scream potential does it?
But it is.
It's a pay-as-you-go, Litespeed web server, Google cloud platform... brotli compression, HTTP/3 (QUIC), global CDN, distributed cache... it sounds incredible (if you're a tech nerd like me).
Wait. Pay as you go!?
I realize this is probably the scariest thing you'll immediately notice about this host. No set price, it's pay as you go. You pay for the resources you use.
That's because it is a proper, actual, cloud host. Not a "private cloud" on their own servers. They use Google's Cloud Platform -- a globally renown network capable of serving the biggest brands on the planet.
And you get to tap into that without a degree in computer science.
Let me allay your fear a little bit. I host two websites on Closte and average about $9/mo. That's cheap, considering the tech stack you're site is sitting on.
Legalese: my lawyers tell me I need to inform you -- your price may vary. It depends on how much data you store, how much bandwidth you use, CPU, memory, and how well you optimize your site. My price is my price, yours will be yours.
The ultimate performance "build"
You ever see articles, or YouTube videos, of people building the "ultimate gaming PC?" Well, this is the ultimate WordPress host build.
Because while Closte is fantastic, there is a way to make it even better than their default build -- ways to make it even faster AND cost less at the same time.
1. Getting Started
First, you need a Closte account. This couldn't be easier. A simple form: first name, last name, email, and password.
Once you have an account you'll eventually land on the dashboard -- and this is where things can start becoming a bit difficult if it's your first site with Closte.
2. Fund your account
Remember this is pay as you go. The way Closte handles this is like a pre-paid card.
First you add your credit card to their system under billing. Then you decide how much you want to fund your account with. I usually just add $20 here and there when I need it.
At this point you want to make sure you have something in there. Maybe kick in $10 to get started.
3. Create your site
Now that your account is funded it's time to kick off your first site. This part is easy but it is also where things start to become more difficult.
To create a new site:
- In the left-hand menu, click sites
- At the top of the "Sites" page, click the add site button
- Choose New WordPress site, click next
- Enter a name (this isn't the domain name), choose the region you want your site hosted, and choose "I have a domain," then click next
- The final screen, enter your domain name, admin account email address, username, and password. Pick single (unless you really want a multisite install), the latest version of WordPress, and Litespeed Cache.
Note: do not pick another caching plugin. Litespeed Cache is insanely good, you'll see.
- Click Deploy when you're ready to create your new site
4. Setup DNS
Here's where we take a turn from what a standard setup with Closte looks like. Normally, you'd use the DNS area inside the Closte dashboard to set up DNS zones for your site.
Instead, we want to use our old standby - Cloudflare.
Here's the catch. Closte will tell you Cloudflare is not supported. That's true, but they're referring to the standard way Cloudflare is used -- as a reverse-proxy.
We're not going to do that. Instead we want to use Cloudflare as our DNS manager. That's it.
Because Cloudflare's DNS service is actually amazing. It is significantly faster than Google's DNS service. In fact, faster than every other DNS service on the planet.
So we want that right? But there is another huge benefit over Closte's (Google's) DNS.
Cloudflare is free. Google's cloud-based DNS is not.
So this is a huge win-win. We get better performance AND save money. Perfect.
Here's how to setup Cloudflare DNS to work with Closte:
- First, create a Cloudflare account (or log into yours)
- Click the add a site button, enter your domain name (aicontentdojo.com for example)
- Select the free plan, click confirm plan
Okay, here Cloudflare is going to scan your domain and attempt to gather already existing DNS records. If it finds something it will show them to you to confirm.
Just make sure they're all not proxied by clicking any orange cloud icons -- which will turn them gray.
Now we need your site's IP address from Closte.
- In your Closte Dashboard, click Sites
- In you sites list, click the dashboard button
- In the top right, under SSH/SFTP, you'll see your site's IP address, copy this
Back in Cloudflare, on the DNS tab:
- Check if you have two A records
- If yes, one will be to yourdomain.com and another will be www (like in the image below)
- Make sure both of these records point to your site's IP address
You must complete DNS setup before your site will be reachable online -- and before you can request an SSL certificate.
It could take hours for DNS propagation to complete, but in my experience, this has taken just a couple minutes. Just be ready for it to take longer.
5. Install SSL
Now that your site is installed and DNS is set up, it's time to get SSL working.
You need SSL nowadays. Not only because it is more secure, but because there are huge performance benefits from having it now (HTTP/3 aka QUIC).
HTTP/3 isn't the topic of this article, but you need SSL in order to use HTTP/3 -- and you want to use HTTP/3 because it is FAST (and it's one the benefits of Litespeed webserver).
Luckily setting up an SSL cert is super easy in Closte.
- In Closte dashboard, click SSL
- Click the Add Free SSL button
- Enter your domain name
- Click the green Request Free SSL button
If the SSL cert is not automatically applied to your site, this can be done manually like this:
- Click SSL in the left menu again
- You'll see the new certificate, click the details button next to it
- Then click the install button
- Leave the defaults in the window that appears, click install
Closte will run a task that will install your cert. It will also keep this certificate updated over time.
At this point you have a functional, super fast site you can log into. Congratulations!
But there are a couple more things I want go over before you speed off to work on your new hot rod.
6. Site settings overview
Closte has some tools you can use to set some key components up easily. This part is easy, here's what I recommend real quick:
- On Closte dashboard, click Sites, then click the dashboard button for your site
- In the left menu choose Settings
- Here you have several tabs:
- On general: disable WP built-in cron, enable external cron
- On Wp-config: set post revisions to 3 (or more if you want)
- On Backup: set backup retention to 5 (the minimum) if you want to save a little $$ -- longer if you need it
- On PHP: set PHP version as high as you can, 7.3+ (be careful, test -- make sure the newest version doesn't break some of your plugins)
That's it. The rest you can leave as default, but explore and set things how you want.
Okay, so what's the catch?
There's gotta be a catch right? Can't have the fastest hosting, free amazing caching plugin, the sweetest tech stack, and cost less than $10/mo. It's too good to be true.
Yes. You're right. There is a catch.
Now don't get me wrong. Support is great at what they do, technically. But they aren't the friendliest staff in the world. They can be a bit... hmm, direct is the word I think I'm looking for.
They will help you with the problems you have with their platform. They won't help you with WordPress problems.
I suppose one could say this is fine, right? They stick to the platform they are responsible for, and nothing else. And here I agree.
But if you're not technical/developer enough to know where the line is, you may get an answer from their support to the tune of "not our problem."
But it's worth it (to me)
If you can live with technical support being strict technical help only -- knowing you have the Tesla of performance hosting powering your site, it's worth it.
The setup is a bit rough. The support can be, ahem, tart. But once it's set up and running you don't deal with that much anyway.
And sometimes the best is worth fighting for.
Thanks to Closte, LMYU (this site) is able to attain scores like this from Web.Dev tests:
Good luck and enjoy!
What is the benefit of using Closte instead of setting up Google Cloud Platform yourself?
This is a common question. I think the answer is what you'll expect.
It's easier. And even though Closte is more technical than many hosts, it is far less technical than setting up Google Cloud Platform yourself.
With Closte you aren't simply "putting your site on GCP." The tech stack involves a great deal of engineering.
- Load balancer
- Cloud Armor
- Backups and snapshots
- Web Application Firewalls (WAF)
- for Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) protection
- Litespeed webserver
- Free SSL integration
- IP address allocation
- SFTP/SSH setup
And there's probably 50 other nuances that I've missed.
If you did manage to engineer all that into GCP yourself, it would cost more than using Closte.
Plus you'd be on the hook for all tech support for yourself too. Even though Closte's support isn't the friendliest in the world, they know what they're doing and can help you when you need technical assistance.