I culled a bunch of different sites, but here are the main ones. For most of them, they allow you to upload your own photos or use stock ones, let you add text, some have video options, etc.
To get a feel for them, one of the best ways is to assign yourself a specific sample project. For myself, I have a book challenge that I do every month, and the members want book badges. I have no real skill in doing this. I did my first two months in Powerpoint using existing clipart and the covers of the books we were reading. Kind of cheesy, but hey, they got book badges.
spark.adobe.com — Adobe’s free tool, although of course they also try to upsell you on Premium templates. Didn’t thrill me.
https://www.canva.com — There’s a pro version, but not needed. This was more of a business card design, but it had potential.
https://getstencil.com/ — Simple layouts (text and stock graphics). I’ve seen worse, certainly, and it did give me some ideas.
There were a long list of other ones that I tried, and it was all free right up until you went to download the logo. At that point, it was $20-$80 but they promised “high-resolution” files. Hmmph.
Most of the sites did well for stock photos and some text, but that is easily done in just about any program, including Powerpoint. Not sure it really added anything for me. The logo makers were nice but ultimately unfulfilling.
Since a lot of friends know I have my own website, it isn’t uncommon to get questions about how they get their own website, dipping their toe in the vast sea of having their own presence online. Usually I frame the discussion around three questions.
A. Do you want your own domain?
This is almost always a no-brainer for people as they often think in very specific terms and have some domain names in mind. My domain, polywogg.ca, is registered to me and only me. It is the same for every company on the planet that has a site, usually. They all register a domain name that is unique to them.
It isn’t the only way to go. Lots of people use free sites at various hosters and end up with sites like “http://AndreasWorld.wordpress.com” or “LoveOfBooks.blogger.com”. Their “unique” presence is still there but the hoster’s name shows up too. For some, they don’t care about that; for most, they do.
If you care about having a site that only has your name in it, you need to register a domain. If you don’t, you can go with lots of hosters that will give you an address like above. Or even trick out a bunch of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Now, the REAL question is more difficult, and for me it’s not a question. I do not and will not register a domain with the same company I choose for my hosting of the site. Let me explain.
When I put my website online, I need two things:
a. A registrar who tells the internet that polywogg.ca is registered to me and also tells all its internet friends where to find my website (the technical numerical address of my site); AND
b. A server of some sort that hosts the files and content for my actual website.
A registrar and a hoster. I need both. And lots of people who are hosters will also offer registrar services. And some registrars have also gotten into hosting. A fully-integrated service, as they pitch it.
Yet there is an inherent conflict of interest for them. Sure, they have to do it all properly and everything, but when you register your domain, it actually records four pieces of information — a registrant ID, a tech ID, an admin ID, and the DOMAIN NAME SERVICE (DNS) address where your website can be founded (like your REAL IP web address that the internet servers use, not the word form users see).
For most people registering a personal site, the DNS will be given to you by your hoster; the admin ID is likely you; and the tech ID may be whoever is helping you set up the website or just you. Regardless of who is doing the registry, these three things are pretty much the same across the board. The problem comes with the REGISTRANT ID.
This basically says who owns that domain. When you do the registry yourself, it should always say you. However, here’s the kicker…sometimes companies that offer cheap registries and hosting packages actually find it easier to just register themselves in that field. They may also register themselves as the tech or admin ID, which is not ideal, but not too problematic, they’re easily changed. But the owner / registrant ID requires the registered ID holder to agree to any changes.
Most people don’t think anything about this. And if you ask the hoster, they’ll tell you there’s no issue. You just move the registry to somewhere else. But unless you have that in writing, why would you simply trust them?
There are countless stories on the web of BADHOSTER X registering a domain “on behalf of” customer Y. Fast forward five years, the person’s needs have changed in what they’re looking for in a website, and they see lovely HOSTER Z sitting over there with exactly what they’re looking for at the right price. No problem, Y will just move from X to Z. And then X says, “Whoa, wait a minute. We want your business. Let us do blah blah blah.” And so they delay and cajole the person into staying. And eventually it turns acrimonious as the person just wants to leave, and BADHOSTER X won’t relinquish their ownership of the domain. They’ll let the DNS address point to another service, but they won’t do it quickly (they serve their own customers first), and what a surprise, they’ll only do it after paying an admin fee. If you’re Mr. or Ms. Big and Popular site, sometimes they’ll say, “Oh, look at our sliding scale…we’ve been discounting, so now you have to pay our full admin fee based on usage, and oh look, they want $1000 to transfer your domain.” It’s extortion, pure and simple, and yes, it is indeed illegal.
Is this a frequent problem? No. Is it a possible problem? Absolutely. They also might just jack the rates after year 1 for your renewals (you have to pay a yearly fee to keep the domain registered to you).
When I went to register my domain, all the experts said “do it separately”, it’s just less risk of future hassle, and while a bit more manual, not egregiously so. And I did. I found Canadian Domain Name Services in Canada, registered all three of my domain names with them over time, and that’s the only service I do with them. They now offer hosting too, but I don’t need that. I just need the basic service I signed up with them for, and it works perfectly. No muss, no fuss, no extortionary practices if I decide to move my website hosting. Which, by the way, I have done four times in my website’s life. Just deciding that the previous hosting wasn’t what I wanted. Three clicks later (almost), and I was with someone else’s hosting package, so I just closed the previous one. And if any of the hosters gave me a hard time, I didn’t care — I just went to the registrar and pointed away from that hoster to my new hoster, leaving me with an up and running site. By contrast, if I was in dispute with my old hoster, they could literally hold me and my website hostage if they were also my registrar.
And yes, ALL the current hosters will offer you deals on your initial registry to get you to join, and almost ALL of them will register themselves as the owner of the domain. You decide if you want to trust them with that part of your site.
In the end, the question is easily answered by a simple metaphor…if you paid a lawyer to register your business, would you let them register themselves as the owner?
B. Do you want a dynamic site or a static site?
If you read any web design advice on the web, they’ll tell you that static sites are the worst possible thing to do. But they mean something different than what this question means.
What they mean is that sites need updates and new content in order to generate buzz and traffic. New things to encourage people to visit your site regularly. What they mean is “dynamic content”.
In my case though, I mean two things — is there going to be dynamic content (as per above) and are you going to want to change the look and feel, menus, etc. on the site over time?
If all you want is a relatively static site — both for content and design — then there are lots of simple hosters out there that offer HTML-based websites (simple web pages) with slick looking templates. You go to their site, sign up for a hosting package, choose a template, and voila, your site is designed. You add your info, some pics and graphics, and you’re done. Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy.
GoDaddy used to be the biggest player on the block for this. Then companies like WIX came along. They’re cheap, they’re slick, it all works pretty well. The only thing you’ll have to do is provide your credit card, click some buttons, and then go tell your registry whatever info the hoster tells you to enter (it’ll basically be something like “Your DNS entry is AndreasWorld.wix1.com” and you’ll go enter that in the registrar site — it’s basically like telling the post office where you live).
There are GREAT sites and templates available. Prices can be as low as $5/month or even lower if you pay by the year. So why wouldn’t everyone use it? Because it isn’t easy to modify the template. If you decide you don’t like the colour of the lines on a table? Well, good luck changing it. Maybe it’s easy, likely it’s not. Some features aren’t even available to be edited, regardless of your technical ability, unless you’re a pro.
Cheap, easy, fast, and relatively professional looking. But it’s not easy to update regularly (nor change the design).
Others, by contrast, want to basically add new content every day. A story. A photo. A post. A new page. Random thoughts. If this is what you are after OR you will be mostly static but with lots of sub-pages, then another solution is better. Officially it’s called a CMS — content management system.
The most common CMS available are blogging platforms aka blogs or gallery platforms aka photo galleries. If you’ll be mostly posting text, you want a blogger; if you are mostly posting photos, you might want a gallery. And of course, just to be confusing, most galleries allow you to have blog-like posts and most blogs also offer galleries. But if you’re mostly text, go with the blog.
There are two main blogging platforms that are like Wix or GoDaddy — already available blogging setups ready to go. One is called blogger.com, and the other is WordPress. Blogger is entirely a self-contained site, you can host your site with them (with your own domain, just like Wiz) and have a bunch of templates to choose from. Click, click, click, you’re good to go. A little basic in their offerings, but you can be blogging in minutes. Literally.
WordPress took a different approach. Yes, they offer both free and paid online accounts (as does Blogger), and the more you pay, the more power you have. Even the most basic site though is more powerful than the free site (and you can have your own domain as opposed to polywogg.wordpress.com). Like Blogger, you can be up and running in minutes, but there is more power under the hood, so it can be a bit more daunting.
The alternative approach they took though is that they ALSO offer their software as a full download and you can run it on other hosting platforms i.e. I am registered with a company called Web Hosting Canada, and can install WordPress to run on it. There are competitors out there too — Moodle, Joomla, Drupal, etc. Actually dozens, if not hundreds. But WordPress is the biggest player.
Running your own “install” of WordPress might sound daunting, and it is at first. But there aren’t that many menus under the hood, and they are relatively intuitive after you finish with setup. Plus there are thousands of templates available to tweak to your heart’s content.
Definitely more work, but the payoff is that a blog is inherently dynamic. Write a new article, post it, and BAM, instant dynamic content. If you don’t plan to do that, then stick with a static site.
C. What else do you want on the site?
After you get through the basics of a static or dynamic page above, you should be leaning one way or the other. Now I need to make your life more complicated. What else do you want on the site?
Do you want a guestbook? If you do, it is easier to do and control with a dynamic site (after all, static sites don’t inherently let you make simple updates like adding your name to the page).
Do you want a catalog of products that might change? If it’s a few services or products and they are relatively the same all the time, maybe just price changes, you can go with a static site. If you want a lot of products listed (almost like a gallery), you need a dynamic site.
Do you want sidebars, banners, advertising, changing menus, galleries, calendars? All argue for a dynamic site. The more “custom” you need it, the less the basic static sites are going to meet your needs.
What am I not telling you?
If you are going to hire someone to do the design for you, none of the above may matter. If they are good, they’ll set you up with a solution that meets your needs today and tomorrow. Of course, there may be a small conflict of interest in their advice in that they may get more money out of you if you redesign later.
So, in short:
Simple site, not much change in content, few pages, basic web presence — go with static site;
Changing content, multiple pages, regular updates, evergreen web presence — go with dynamic site like WordPress.
In my last post about the server side of my website (Version 3.3 of my websites: the technical side of things and Version 3.3 of my websites: the software side), I talked about a problem I was having with GreenGeeks that they couldn’t solve. It was a lot more complicated than just one problem, or even their laissez-faire approach to changing settings on my site without telling me, it was more of a governance issue and I finally had to bail on them. I’m still using them for one site that has low traffic, just until the prepaid balance is used up, and then I’ll migrate it over to my new host.
Because I did indeed find a new host, as I said…I moved to WebHostingCanada. And things were going along pretty well with them.
I had an error at one point, one that I haven’t resolved yet, where my WP-CRON (the file that regularly runs a set command at a set time) doesn’t want to post “scheduled” posts. So, for example, if I write a post, and I want it to go live at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow, you use the schedule feature in WordPress and at 8:00 a.m., or shortly thereafter when WP-CRON runs, it notices a pending post, and switches it to live. Or it is supposed to. For some reason, while some of the Cron features work for other things, it won’t “schedules” my posts to go live and actually make them live at that time (it schedules them, it just doesn’t do it). Like an alarm clock that just doesn’t go off when it should.
Not a giant issue, I rarely schedule posts that way, and when I do, it’s often part of a larger strategy that requires manual intervention anyway.
Then I upgraded to a new version of WordPress. Then another. All good.
Then I went up to a version where suddenly I couldn’t save my updates. It was like the auto-save would start as I was typing, and never complete. So when I went to later save, it wasn’t able to “activate” when I pressed “update”. Other people were having this too, with nobody seeming to have a solution.
Now, the normal way to resolve this is to go to your plugins and deactivate everything. Check again — if it works, then you have a plugin conflict; if it doesn’t, it likely means it is something else (* remember this asterisk). You then move along to themes, switch to a basic theme, see if the conflict goes away. Etc. It helps you narrow down to what is wrong. If you disable your theme and your plugins and your connections to just about everything, it might be a server problem, something wrong with your config.
Which is where I was looking for solutions. Because disabling my plugins and theme didn’t resolve the problem. But my server settings all looked fine.
Except for one small glitch. My server load was high. Now I had this before with Greengeeks when running Piwigo and WordPress, and they thought it was some sort of outside attack. Webhosting said “nope, not that”, this looked more like a config problem to them. So I got a phone call from them noting it was really high and asking if they could log in and check a few things. They weren’t spammers, they didn’t need my credentials, they just wanted permission before they started poking around.
I was like, “hell, yeah”. Greengeeks went in, poked around and changed things, without asking or even telling me. Here Webhosting Canada was, phoning me in person to ask if they could look around my setup and see if there was anything going on. I walked the guy through the background, stuff I’d tried in the past, and off he went. I wished him luck, as this could have been a rabbit hole.
He found the problem in less than 3 minutes. As soon as he saw one of the security files set up by Better WP Security, it was clear what the problem was. The file was HUGE, and it was calling itself. So every time I logged in or even loaded a page, it would go into an almost perpetual loop of constantly checking and then rechecking and then rechecking itself again. He tweaked the file, disabled the plugin, and the load dropped to normal. It was just that one plugin.
Now, back to that asterisk. Disabling the plugin hadn’t helped. Because disabling it didn’t undo the security file changes. The plugin wasn’t active, but the huge file was still being triggered. Undoing those changes and making the changes relatively straightforwardly with another security plugin to do the same thing worked PERFECT.
And my editing / saving problem went away too.
Their totally different attitude to solving the problem made all the difference for me. And while diagnosing WP problems is not their job, that’s a config problem, they did it at no charge.
I feel somewhat unfair now about the previous hosts. They had the same issue but no idea how to solve it, and all evidence was pointing to a server problem, not a software config problem. But the guy found it in under 3 minutes once he stepped outside the normal “not my problem” box that most tech supports have. Back when I was working tech supports, it was the same “not my problem” attitude of others that drove me batty. And my alternate “let’s see if I can help with anything else while I’m here” attitude is what made me popular with my clients.
Thumbs up to WebHosting Canada. The site’s working great. WP-CRON is still acting up, but I can live with that for now. And it gave me the confidence to merge the two sites into one (#50by50 #02 – Who am I when I’m online?). I also reconfigured the categories and groupings into Government (Civil Service, Development, Government), Hobbies (Astronomy, Computers, Humour, Ideas, Learning, Photography, Quotes, and Recipes), HR (HR Guide and PS Transitions FP), Personal (Experiences, Family, Goals, 50by50, Spiritualism), Reviews (Book Reviews, Music Reviews, TV reviews), Writing (Libraries, Publishing, Art of Writing) and Links.
I’ve also decided to be a little less demanding re: the “one category per post” rule that I’ve been doing, it’s hard to find things sometimes where I’m talking about a goal that pertains to one of the headings, for example — is it a post about goals or a post about the hobby?
I’m liking the new design, and trying to be a bit more flexible.
So I confess that once upon a time, I paid for some of my living expenses through the fact that I knew how to work a computer for things like graphics and formatting. No, seriously, back in the early 90s, it made me stand out from other people, the fact that I knew how to work Lotus 1-2-3, Word and WordPerfect, dBase IV and, drumroll please, Harvard Graphics. At the time, I think it was version 3.0, and while people could do very basic graphs in Lotus, the real trick was to choose a variety of simple graphs in Harvard Graphics, add your data, and voila, you were good to go. Back in ’93, for my first job at DFAIT, we did a presentation for Cabinet where all the graphs were done in HG, in colour, and there were about 30 of them. Blew the Cabinet people away, colour slides. In government. Bear in mind that most departments had barely switched over from DOS to Windows, and we gave them a 60-page deck on the future of the Asia Pacific region. Bound.
Now, of course, most people do their graphs in Excel or Powerpoint. And I wanted to do one this week. I have 29 or so “goals” that I am tracking against “Level 1” progress, and I wanted some sort of cheap visualization of how I am doing towards reaching level 1. I started in Powerpoint, which really just replicates the software functionality of Excel, and while it was decent enough, I’m not a graph tweaking expert anymore. I used to be able to get HG get up and dance and look amazing…compared to the Excel graph I did, I feel like I regressed in technology.
So, I was curious. Are there any other data visualization tools out there that people use easily and, more importantly, are free? My friend Aliza mentioned Google Charts and I confess that I had heard it mentioned in passing, but since I had little use for it, I had never looked at it.
I should step back for a second though. I *did* experiment with a WordPress plugin or two a few months back, and well, I was never too satisfied with the result. I would love a simple visualization tool that keeps my data in WordPress, doesn’t add a lot of overhead, and has lots of tweakable options. The experience reminded me a lot of that saying about things being cheap, fast, or good, and you can only pick two. I never quite found what I wanted.
I moved on to a variety of other options:
Zing Chart — highly complex, and the options were not as intuitively laid out as Googel Charts;
Tableau — this is only available for download, and I haven’t tried it yet;
PowerView — a Microsoft option, but not available in the version of Excel I was running;
D3.js — A live data tool, I couldn’t even claim to understand how it worked or what I was supposed to do;
Fusion charts — looks pretty solid, but linking to it from WordPress wasn’t obvious, and thus a dead end;
Visual.IS — in addition to having to create an account, it had strong links to paid versions;
High charts — the type of chart I wanted wasn’t there;
Chartist — good mentions of it elsewhere, but the website is just on GitHub, and not as friendly to access;
Piktochart — although it requires an account to be created, the real challenge was that it is also aimed at infographics more so than simple charts, and for some reason, it starts with asking you about infographics vs. presentation vs. printable, i.e. you’re choosing your design and function before you choose anything about what you want to create and put into the presentation, etc.;
Ubiq — data visualization running with MySQL, and I was hoping to avoid a database element;
Vizydrop — pulls data from a datafile (CSV JSON or Excel), which I was also hoping to avoid, but may reconsider;
Plot.ly — no clue what it did as it just kept crashing;
Datamatic — uses Google Drive, which doesn’t sound problematic, except that GD is blocked by our firewall at work, so visualizations wouldn’t work if I wanted to put them on my screen as a reminder; and,
Hohli — I really liked this one, but it seems to be geared towards replacing the interface (or lack thereof) for Google Charts, yet with 1-time creation (i.e. couldn’t seem to save or edit/re-use later).
Which put me back in the world of Excel. I did a graph, and it looks fine. I have room for future expansion of data, which could be useful (kind of stacking option for Level 2). Not exactly quite what I was hoping for in terms of quality, but maybe that is just me needing to spend more time with Excel to make it pretty. I would LOVE to be able to recreate the DIFF chart look and feel of Google Charts. But it met my need for the day (to update on my progress on goals in Goals – Weekly roundup (#2017-01)).
The other night, I was browsing my posts list in my admin panel on the website and noticed something odd — my scheduled post for yesterday morning didn’t actually post. And right next to it in the internal WordPress admin panel was a nice little red warning called “missed schedule”. I had seen this before and thought it was just a glitch, no biggie — just click publish now and it goes live. No problem with the post, it just didn’t go live when it should have. I don’t often schedule future posts when I’m writing detailed posts, although I might change the time stamp to 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning even if I’m writing it at 1:00 in the afternoon, like now. Just a small quirk I do to manage an indexing protocol that checks the time stamp, no real reason.
However, from time to time, I will write a bunch of posts all at once, and I want them spread out over several days. So I “schedule” them for future publication, usually 9:00 in the morning. So, the question was, “Why didn’t they post?”.
Running around the WordPress community
As with most glitches with WordPress, one is often not the first person to encounter it. Simply googling “WordPress Missed Schedule” brought up a whole series of people who had the same problem, posed the question online and had people respond. In most cases, their problem was slightly different in config once I scratched the surface, or the solutions were a bit different than what would seem to fit my situation. However, they did send me looking into several plugins.
I tried a plugin called WP CRONTROL that wasn’t a fix so much as a way to glean some additional diagnostic information. Namely that the small “glitch” was bigger than I thought — my CRON file was not running, and there were problems going back to August. Hundreds of behind-the-scenes happen on your website without your having to control them directly, little bots that can run from time to time, and your website software or the server software has ways to schedule them. Basically the same as your CALENDAR on your computer keeping track of reminders, etc., or even your regular WINDOWS update that does certain things at regular intervals. In this case, WordPress has a file that keeps track of all things it has to do (its own internal to-do list) called WP-CRON. I started trying to clean out the long list of expired entries but it would take forever.
So I added another cron manager called ADVANCED DATABASE CLEANER. Sure, I could have logged into the PHP admin area of my website and manually cleaned things in my database, but why would I do that when this plugin would do it for me?
Down the rabbit hole
I went down a rabbit hole after that. Lots of little tips and tricks everywhere, but few that were specific enough to help me, nor even in a good logical fashion. More like eight hundred people playing hunches and trying something on their server, some with luck, some with none. I jumped the queue while I was working through some of the options and started chatting with the Server Customer Support Rep, but honestly, their Tier 1 people are more about sales than they are tech support. They do okay, but this is way beyond them.
What I often find helpful though is that explaining the problem to them seems to crystallize it better in my own mind, and often triggers thoughts to try x or y that hadn’t occurred to me earlier or that I dismissed too soon. And it gave me a structure for understanding how to solve the problem.
A. GET YOUR DIAGNOSTICS
As I mentioned above, I used WP CRONTROL to see the list of cron activities and ADVANCED DB CLEANER to fix it a bit. WP CRONTROL also told me there was a 403 error (forbidden) on the WP-CRON file, but it wasn’t very convincing since some of the other errors might be causing it.
After going around the pole a few times, I found a great little tool called WP CRON STATUS CHECKER. It only has a few hundred downloads/installs, and it is a great little tool. The plugin doesn’t have a lot of info with it, but it adds a widget in your dashboard that tells you the status of your CRON files. It DOES nothing to fix problems but it does a quick test to see if WP-CRON can even run, and if not, tells you the status (403, etc.). I wish I had found this first. It told me for sure part of the problem was that WP-CRON was not running. And once fixed, you can deactivate it and leave it off. If you leave it activated, it will run on its own every 24 hours to check, but my site isn’t busy enough that I need that level of monitoring.
B. CHECK .HTACCESS
HTML sites have a small file in the directories called “HT access” that controls how visitors can access the individual files in the directory and subdirectory and is the second line of defense against people doing silly things like writing files and overwriting certain files on your site. On sites like WordPress, it’s the equivalent of a master security file that controls a lot of the subsequent access rights.
Some sites said to see if .HTACCESS was corrupted, but I was pretty sure mine wasn’t (I have other plugins that check the status of HTACCESS regularly, they would throw flags if it was corrupted).
What the sites FAILED to mention was that it isn’t just simple CORRUPTION that could be screwing up WP-CRON, it could be the actual proper setup is messing with it. I should have thought of that immediately when I saw the earlier 403 FORBIDDEN message in WP CRONTROL, but when I saw it again in the WP CRON STATUS CHECKER, I knew I had found my problem. Unfortunately, I did this step sixth or seventh instead of second!
The simplest way to see if .HTACCESS is your problem is to temporarily rename it something like .HTACCESS_TEMP or .HTACCESSXX. Then check the status again — if it was .HTACCESS causing the problem, the status will go green when you check after renaming it. If it is still red, move on to other options.
C. CHECK SECURITY PLUGINS
I run WordFence and iThemes, and of all the types of plugins, security ones are the most likely to cause access issues like above and conflicts with other plugins or activities. So, I temporarily deactivated them and then checked my other settings. Nope, still broken, so that was out.
D. CHECK OTHER PLUGINS
Anyone who has had a problem with WordPress, or really any CMS ever, they know that the simplest way to look for a conflict is to just deactivate all your plugins. Considering some people are running TONS of plugins, this isn’t often the favorite solution, but it’s better than turning them off and on one at a time. I deactivated them all, checked status, still broken.
E. CHECK FILE PERMISSIONS FOR WP-CRON
Of course, lots of people would say to check this one first — if WP-CRON is the problem, the “obvious” first step could be to check the file permissions on that specific file to see if the settings are wrong. Good logic, but since WP sets them in batches, the reality is that other files would likely have the wrong settings too and would have thrown red flags much earlier. Remember that this is a low-level file that only flags errors when it DOESN’T run.
For me, I temporarily changed the setting to 777, full read/write/execute and checked status again. Still broken.
F. CHECK FOLDER PERMISSIONS FOR WP ROOT DIRECTORY
I can’t say this would have occurred to me on my own. If WordPress is running, the folder must be set pretty close to right, or the red flags would be borderline catastrophic for failure. Never the less, it was still worth a try — again, I changed to full 777 rights, no change, still broken.
Why did I do all those things?
If all those had failed, I would have eliminated the three most likely internal problems:
corruption of access files;
access / permissions to the file or folder; and/or
conflict from security or other plugins.
That leaves you three other options that I’ve seen:
Try a plugin called WP MISSED SCHEDULE. It isn’t on the main WP install directory, you have to do it manually from GITHUB. I’m personally leery of installing plugins that don’t reside in the WP repository, and on top of that, the installation instructions did not seem awesome for clarity. Lots of people have tried it and had it fail; others did it and said it worked; others said, “huh?”. I also feel like if the problem was any of the first five, this plugin would not fix any of those issues.
Check with your host to see if there is a server config issue. Lots of people have said very simply, “Oh, it’s a config issue, contact your server”, but that is a bit too reactionary. If it is any of the above issues, the server people won’t know how to fix the problem either and unless you’re paying a lot for access to their tech support personnel, they’ll say, “Sorry, that’s a software issue, you’re on your own”. I used mine to get the ticket started, but I had resolved the diagnostic phase before we were done creating the ticket and I had figured out it was an .HTACCESS issue which they don’t help with anyway.
Bypass WP-CRON and create a server cron file to do it at the server level. Yep, to me that’s as advanced as it sounds. If you google, you’ll see lots of people who have written why they don’t use WP-CRON, why they turn it off, etc. Almost all of them are hardcore techies who are totally comfortable running LINUX, the type who would thumb their nose at building a Raspberry Pi project as “toys for kids”. If you go this route, and you have access to CPANEL setup, it really is a single line to tell it what to run and when, but I confess it didn’t work for me, and I didn’t want to mess around too much in that level of direct intervention
You might note that I’ve also left out the nuclear option of reinstalling WordPress from scratch. Honestly, that is pretty low on the list of probable solutions if you have done an upgrade from a previously working version and haven’t mucked around with the configuration too much recently. It *should* work, and if it doesn’t, something else is likely configured wrong, not your basic WP install. Always worth a shot of course, and many people would say to start with that in the first place. Who would say to do that? Those who did everything else, failed, tried a fresh install and it solved their problem and now they preach purity of install. 🙂
So what does this have to do with running my own server?
All of these problems? And I’m only talking about a SMALL software config issue that sent me way down the rabbit hole. If I was running my own server, I would have another 20 possible causes, all having to do with either server configuration or potentially even a hardware issue. One of the “saving” graces to paying someone else to carry the load of managing / running a server with a large hoster is that the cost/benefit ratio to me is WAY in my favour, particularly the number of times a problem like this has frustrated the hell out of me. I don’t need that added stress in my life. And if others are running the same install just fine on the big server, I know it is MY problem, not a technical screw-up that I did in the server setup. Worth it’s weight in gold.
As for me, now that I know it’s an HTACCESS challenge, I can push it to the back burner. I can work around it for now, and at some point, I’ll fix it. For now, I’m leaving it alone.
If you ended up here while searching for a solution, feel free to let me know how it’s going in the comments!