Perhaps the most often asked question we get at STH is: “does WordPress hosting really require server hardware?” Strictly speaking, you can run WordPress just fine on modern desktop PCs, and even laptops. Just because something works, does not make it a good idea. We often find that those who purchase consumer hardware to save a few dollars at the outset end up converting installations to server hardware at some point in the future. Here is why you want server hardware for WordPress hosting.
Server v. Workstation Hardware for WordPress Hosting
The number one reason to get server instead of workstation hardware is IPMI and iKVM functionality. When something goes terribly wrong, you can easily remotely diagnose what is happening. Here is an example of a Gigabyte server where we are using iKVM to troubleshoot a BIOS setting:
This capability to access a server, before booting to the OS, is a life-saver for remote management.
Newer versions from companies like Dell and Supermicro will have HTML5 iKVM clients which remove the need for JAVA.
These features allow you to install OSes remotely which is handy if you ever need to rebuild a machine. IPMI features also let you power on/ off machines remotely and get a remote serial console. You can even monitor sensors to see if a component is overheating leading to failure.
To give you an idea in terms of the level of impact, if a problem occurs, this can save hundreds of dollars in remote hands fees.
Server Platform Memory Support
While remote management is the top feature, the other side of this equation is ECC memory. ECC memory helps detect memory errors and in some cases correct the errors. That means systems have a lower likelihood of crashing, causing downtime. Aside from the ECC feature, server platforms have been highly influenced by applications like virtualization and in-memory analytics so server platforms also have higher memory capacity than the ~16GB – 64GB maximum memory we see in consumer-grade platforms.
Here is what you need to know for current Intel server CPUs in single-socket configurations:
You can read a bit about UDIMM v. RDIMM ECC memory in our guide, but here is the summary. You always want RDIMM support if possible. While there are some niche cases were RDIMM performance may impact performance noticeably, WordPress is not one of them. Instead, you want more memory.
Honorable mentions in terms of other chips you may buy, but we do not recommend:
- Cavium ThunderX (ARM64): RDIMM
- AMD Ryzen: UDIMM (limited ECC)
- Intel Core i7 Series: UDIMM (non-ECC)
AMD Naples is the big launch coming up and that will have RDIMM support, but at the time of this writing, you cannot buy one yet. The Cavium ThunderX platform uses ARM64 instead of a traditional x86 Intel/ AMD architecture and can run WordPress well. The caveat is that there is a significantly larger buy-in for tuning a hosting stack on ARM. If you are just getting started with your own servers, we suggest getting an Intel or AMD based machine.
There are other nice features such as higher-quality onboard network interfaces, more rigorous testing with enterprise NVMe drives and etc., but the above items are probably the largest. Once you have been around server hardware long enough, the platform advantages become almost insurmountable.
Bottom Line: Get server hardware for dedicated WordPress hosting hardware.