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How to build your own WPEngine copycat WordPress server on Ubuntu 14.04 with an Ansible Playbook

There is no denying that WPEngine offers the fastest WordPress hosting on planet earth. They’ve invested millions into building the fastest platform possible. That’s why they charge so much money for their services. Because they are worth it. Some of us can’t afford to pay $100-$1000/mo for WordPress hosting. The good news is that if you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty on a Linux command line, you can build your own server that will get you most of the way to a WPEngine class WordPress instance. There are a few key technologies that make this possible.

  • Percona DB (like MySQL)
  • HHVM – A super fast PHP VM
  • PHP-FPM – Just in case HHVM has a problem
  • NGINX
  • Varnish – Awesome reverse proxy cache
  • Memcached & APC

I think you’re probably starting to get the idea. These are the highest performers of the high performance technologies out there. We’re going to make them all work together to make your site blazing fast. It’s not all that hard and it doesn’t take very long.

All you need is a VPS or Virtual Machine running Ubuntu 14.04. Go ahead and SSH into it and we’ll get started.

How to build a WPEngine copycat server for FREE

The server you are working with MUST be able to resolve the hostnames of the sites you’re going to set up, to itself. So, if you are building this to replace a server that’s running and you don’t want to take that site down until everything is migrated, simply add hostname entries mapping the FQDN to the IP address in /etc/hosts.

First thing’s first, let’s make sure your Ubuntu 14.04 installation is updated and upgraded.

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade

Now we need to add the Ansible ppa.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ansible/ansible

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How To Build An INSANELY FAST WordPress Server On Ubuntu 14.04, Using NGINX, HHVM & MySQL

So, you want to build a WordPress server? One that won’t barf all over itself every time a link is posted to Digg or Reddit? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Building an insanely fast web server isn’t rocket science. It’s actually pretty darn straight forward. I’ve built more web servers than I care to remember, which means I’ve also made more mistakes I care to remember. All in the name of trying to make things faster. If speed is your goal, there’s only a few important key things to remember. If speed is absolutely the most critical variable in a situation, my philosophy is something like this:

  • KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid. Seriously… No control panels, plugins, or other bloated garbage.
  • Cache, Cache, and Cache some more. Caching is a godsend. Reduces requests, reduces transfer time, therefore reducing load times!
  • FAST Server – This should be a given, but no shared servers. Only VPS, VM or bare metal awesomeness.
  • Optimization – Optimize, minimize, downsize, and compress everything as much as you can get away with.
  • Optionally, using a CDN (Content Delivery Network) can really speed things up; as well as a high quality distributed DNS service. But, not absolutely necessary.

Like I said, we’re talking about building an INSANELY FAST WordPress server here. Obviously if you’re Joe Shmoe from Motown, you can probably get by just fine on a quality managed hosting provider, like Serenity-Networks. But, if you want to build the fastest web server on earth, continue reading.

There are plenty of Linux Distributions out there that will work just fine. I prefer CentOS and Ubuntu. For this guide, I’ll be using Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (Long Term Support). This OS will be supported for many years, with security updates. That’s good, especially for a server. If you don’t have it, go to http://www.ubuntu.org and go to downloads, then server. Be sure to select the 14.04 LTS version.

Now, assuming you have done a minimal install of Ubuntu 14.04, with only OpenSSH selected for packages (for remote SSH connection, obviously), we will be using some commonly known building blocks to turn this into a very fast web server.

  • NGINX Web Server – Many THOUSANDS of the fastest sites in the world use it. It’s the best.
  • HHVM – This is a very high performance virtual machine that takes care of processing PHP (as well as HACK). Because it turns PHP into machine language, very quickly, it can really speed things up.
  • MySQL – Kind of boring, but every site needs a database, so we’ll use this one.

Getting Started

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