Serverless static websites have been around for ages but what has been missing is a Serverless open source CMS that is user friendly and feature rich.
With a lot of online services moving into the cloud, custom dynamic websites have been lagging in this department. WordPress is the most popular CMS for websites and generally runs on a single server, however it’s not as easy to use or cheap to create a serverless WordPress site.
The term cloud hosting is thrown around but I don’t consider a service truly in the cloud unless it is serverless. So what is serverless computing? Basically, a serverless system will have built-in redundancy and scaling, taking away the server management from the developer. There are still servers behind the scenes of course but this abstracted and not a concern for the developer.
Pricing is based on the actual usage, not a monthly fixed fee. It’s much more efficient as usually, servers will have a lot of idle time and un-used CPU cycles. When developing an application on an old-fashioned server-based system you need to expect the physical hardware of the system to fail at any moment. There are more and more serverless services being offered by cloud providers such as Google and Amazon enabling developers to build almost anything as a serverless application.
It does take years for software to mature to a point where there is community support such as where WordPress is now but we are now moving away from WordPress to a more modern serverless setup. Generally, all our new sites are built with a platform like Netlify or a headless WordPress setup. Now the CMS system generates a dynamic static site which is compiled and pushed out to a CDN which has a number of amazing benefits:
- Extremely fast loading worldwide with all files instantly loading from a multi-cloud CDN close to the user – Not possible with standard WordPress
- A very low chance of downtime as all files hosted on a static file CDN – WordPress is hosted on a normal server which inherently has some downtime.
- Unhackable security as there are no executable files running on a server that can be compromised – A bit issue of WordPress when not setup correctly
- No server maintenance Yay!
The front end of the site is powered by React which give you app-like responsiveness and even offline capabilities making for a much nicer user experience. Many digital spaces are moving in this direction, even we have started creating serverless websites.
For the backend, check out the beautifully clean backend for Netlify CMS. It’s a single page React App so it’s lightning fast and customisable. Custom fields similar to WordPress ACF are easily added to each page.
Are there any downsides?
Only a couple – React is not a feature rich as WordPress just yet and the community is still growing. It’s a much more developer-driven with no quick install plugins for non-developers which is usually a good thing. Anything that can break the site is in the code (where it should be).
One other thing that may surprise WordPress users is that you need to wait for the site to build every time you edit the site or add content. Netlify provides an interface to see the build process progress and once complete you will see the changes on the live site.
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