This is a step by step guide on how to set up your own unmanaged server or vps to run as a WordPress Performance server environment. Using this setup you will have the ability to host a large WordPress Multisite set up or numerous single installs. This guide assumes you have a basic understanding of using SSH via the Mac Terminal app or Putty for Windows and requires an unmanaged dedicated server or VPS hosting account with either the 32 or 64 bit Debian kernal available.
In my last guide I touted a Nginx reverse proxy cache with WordPress and Apache as the ultimate WordPress performance stack but since then I have found that there is really no reason to use Apache unless you have a specific need for it. Nginx has matured and works great with the WordPress rewrite engine and even W3 Total Cache now includes Nginx rewrite rules for page cache, minify and browser caching.
Choosing a web host with Debian “squeeze” images available
Debian 6 aka “squeeze” is considered the grandfather of Linux distors and Debian is known for relatively strict adherence to the Unix and free software philosophies. Debian is also distributed with access to repositories containing thousands of software packages ready for installation and use.
Most of the large managed hosting companies don’t give you the option of choosing your Linux distro so your going to need to find one that does. The reason for this is that it’s much easier for a hosting company to provide support using cPanel or Parallels Virtuozzo VPS virtualization. Virtuozzo allows them to squeeze many more VPSs on a box and control the resources and your limited to guess what - Cent OS.
Your going to need a provider that offers Xen virtualization. Xen is a powerful open source virtualization platform that supports a wide range of guest operating systems including Linux - Debian, Ubuntu, Free BSD, Cent OS, Fedora and more. When you set up your account have your provider load the Debian 6 aka “squeeze” image on your VPS or install it on your dedicated server. If you have over 2GB memory go for the 64 bit version.
I use Softlayer (formally The Planet) for my dedicated server because of the state of the art data centers and major broadband backbone it’s connected to. It also has a very powerful back end portal and allows you to connect to your box over a private VPN. Linode, Slicehost, and VPS.net are also very good choices. I would stay away from Media Temple and Rackspace as I’ve had problems with both and they’ve had well documented security vulnerabilities in the past.
Next Page: Connecting to your server the first time.