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  • PHP is super easy to deploy. But that doesn’t mean any hosting platform will do — especially when you’re serious about business.

    In many ways PHP took over the mantle from Perl — it was an easy scripting language that could embed right within HTML (or embed HTML within itself, depending on how you want to look at it), was supported by popular open source web servers (*cough* Apache), and had bindings to popular relational databases (yup, MySQL).

    But unlike Perl, PHP was clever enough to innovate faster when it came to staying relevant — the HHVM was a threat large enough to make Zend drop any plans for PHP 6 and jump to PHP 7 (resulting in a 200% performance increase), and just when it was looking like the development scene in PHP was all about monkey coding or make-your-own-framework, Laravel dropped a bombshell.

    Point being, the PHP of today is nowhere near that of the yesteryears — it has horns, wings, shoots lasers with its eyes, and can unroot a tree or two with no problem. Those who stuck with it (myself included, the main reason being laziness :-P) now have a modern, excellent toolset for building web applications.

    Which brings us to another embarrassing past area — hosting. Yes, PHP hosting providers are still a dime a dozen, and many of them were built to inflict suffering on the unsuspecting public, but equally true, there are now all sorts of robust and excellent options available.

    This post is for the developer or anyone who cares about quality, freedom, and performance; the one who shudders at the thought of FTP uploads and CPanel (although knows how to work with them!).

    DigitalOcean

    It’s likely that you’ve heard of DigitalOcean already, but if not, this is an incredibly cost-efficient and powerful platform for hosting your applications.

    Essentially, DigitalOcean is famous for Virtual Private Servers (VPS) that offer very good performance and control for the DevOps team. With this freedom also comes responsibility, of course — you are responsible for optimizing, managing, and securing your infrastructure. If you have a modern PHP app, that’s most likely what you’re looking for.

    DigitalOcean has several amazing features, almost making it a mini-AWS for developers:

    • One-click installs for popular PHP apps
    • Tools like Load Balancers, Private Networking, etc.
    • Object Storage, Block Storage, SSD storage, etc.
    • Several types of servers depending on needs — general purpose, high CPU, or high RAM
    • API-based infrastructure management for easy scaling up or down
    • Rich monitoring and usage and statistics
    • Marketplace, custom OS images, backups, etc.
    • Hosted databases (PostgreSQL as of writing, but MySQL and others are soon coming)

    DigitalOcean is what I use for hosting client projects, WordPress websites, command-line PHP scripts, and whatnot, and I’ve never had a single problem with performance or security. Highly recommended for those for reliability and flexibility.

    A2 Hosting

    A2 Hosting is a large and trusted hosting service that specializes in PHP. If you’re tired of the performance issues with your current hosting platforms and still want to keep the spend in strict check, A2 Hosting is worth checking out.

    As you can see, the plans are lovely, but that’s no marketing schtick — A2 Hosting delivers. A quick comparison of the plans reveals that for under $10 a month, you get a server with 2 GB RAM, two cores, and optimized hardware.

    A2 Hosting excels in simple, traditional PHP hosting — WordPress, Magento, simple frameworks, one-page scripts, etc., but makes a lot of sense when disk performance is a concern.

    Forge

    Laravel is the hottest and most popular PHP framework, and will likely remain “the one” for a long, long time. Which means if you’re a PHP developer, chances are you’re coding in Laravel.

    Now, Laravel is a demanding framework, and the issue of deployment gets complicated; the more feature-rich your app becomes. If you’re in that boat and want to get rid of all hassles related to deployment (yes, I mean all), Forge is what you’re missing.

    But first things first — Forge doesn’t have servers or hosting on offer. Rather, it’s a web-based interface for deploying and monitoring your PHP applications on popular hosting services like DigitalOcean (covered above), Linode, AWS, etc. Here’s what Forge has to offer to Laravel teams:

    • Horizontal scaling
    • Load balancing
    • SSL management
    • Simple queues and cron management
    • Site management and auto updates
    • Custom deployment scripts

    For a mere $20 per month, you can manage unlimited servers through Forge, and there are annual discounts. Honestly, it doesn’t get any better than this!

    Heroku

    Heroku has traditionally been associated with Ruby on Rails and Python ecosystems (for its love of PostgreSQL and simple, near-artistic deployments). But now, PHP developers can also rejoice!

    Whether it’s plain PHP, Laravel, Symfony, HHVM, or any other variant/package, Heroku does it all with a simple git push that seems too good to be true but actually is. Scaling is taken care of automatically, and there are several Heroku services (add-ons) to make your deployment life easier.

    Heroku is among the costlier hosting platforms for PHP out there, but it’s rock-solid and comes with a great reputation for quality and stability.

    Cloudways

    It’s possible that you see the merits of hosting platforms like DigitalOcean, Linode, etc., but you lack a trusted team to do the DevOps stuff. If so, Cloudways is a great alternative that will manage your PHP application on a platform of your choosing.

    Of course, that means the pricing goes up. I did a quick-and-dirty check of the pricing plans, and as a general rule, you pay double of what you’d ordinarily pay to these hosting platforms. Which, honestly, is a pretty sweet deal, if you ask me, especially considering that Cloudways offers free migration help for your website.

    I mean, for less than $50 a month, you can run an e-commerce store that generates thousands of dollars of sales a month and handles spikes very well.

    You gain all the nice features that your dream platform offers, and you gain peace of mind. What more can one ask for? 🙂

    Nodechef

    Nodechef? Yes, that’s what I thought.

    While Nodechef is known for Node-native hosting solutions, they seem to have embraced PHP and offer a pretty sweet platform.

    You’d be paying anywhere from $100 to $200 a month for a decent server, but the point is that essential services like MongoDB, MySQL, Redis, etc., are already baked in and will scale effortlessly. Paid support is also available, and starts at $300 a month.

    Worth it? Yes, if you have specific needs and want reliability and quick resolution of problems.

    Runcloud

    Sometimes, you need both — a managed hosting solution for PHP (for your design teams that do basic markup and PHP functions inside simple scripts), and a flexible environment (Docker-based, ElasticSearch-backed, hyperlocal PHP application, perhaps?).

    In those cases, Runcloud is a sweet deal.

    Runcloud replaces cPanel, WHM, and other such utilities with its own custom dashboard, which frankly, is out of the world:

    You manage everything through this beautiful interface, which includes everything you can think of — PHP version, Supervisor configuration (by the way, this seems to be the first PHP host that bundles Supervisor), logs, database, everything.

    Again, Runcloud doesn’t offer servers of its own, but for as little as $15 a month, will allow you to connect and manage unlimited servers. There’s even a free plan if you need to manage and single server and don’t want the bells and whistles!

    Platform.sh

    How do I even begin describing Platform.sh? 🙂 Okay, let’s try this — you’ve likely heard of Symfony (the most robust PHP web framework out there), Magento (the e-commerce platform when it comes to heavy lifting), and TYPO3 (a complex, highly modular CMS), right?

    Well, all of these have Platform.sh as their PHP hosting of choice.

    The reason is that Platform.sh goes beyond the call of duty, providing everything needed in a modern PHP application — from support for latest PHP versions to simple, one-click deployment for microservices.

    If you have a large, serious business that runs on PHP, Platform.sh should be #1 on your radar.

    And it’s not as if it costs a fortune. For $270 a month (compare plans here), you can run a website that easily handles a couple of million page views a month. Now, I agree that $270 sounds a lot, especially when PHP hosting is available for, like, $5 a month. However, Platform.sh is a game changer for game changers, and is not to be taken lightly. 🙂

    Google App Engine

    Take advantage of Google’s low latency network infrastructure.

    Google App Engine is managed serverless platform which allows you to run PHP, Nodejs, Python, C# applications. The best thing is, you don’t have to worry about managing infrastructure – Google does it for you.

    You pay for what you use and scale automatically to accommodate traffic spikes.

    Conclusion

    There’s no shortage of PHP hosting providers in the market. Just one Google search and you’ll be drowning in choices. However, not all hosting providers are worth picking, no matter how good their website copy or how incredible their plans.

    Horror stories of recurring bugs, hacks, and unresolved performance issues are all too common among “popular” PHP hosting providers, which is why this article focuses on the lesser-known but killer options.

    Hope it helps! 🙂