I have installed Open Realty from the Scripts option in cPanel. Now, I want to connect it to my MLS output using the RETS Downloader. However, Open Realty and WP Realty share some concerns with using a Shared Server (listed below). Can anyone comment on these concerns? Can Bluehost handle the needs of Open Realty for importing and displaying MLS data?
SHARED SERVER LIMITATIONS
The second most popular support ticket request we receive has everything to do with server issues. Many people host on shared hosting and shared hosting is not ideally configured for MLS type websites of this type. When you read below about who the target audience is you will better understand why. People freaquently ask us why our plugin has limitations in this area when comparring us to other solutions and I'll answer their question like this.
HERE COMES THE IMPORTANT PART
Other WordPress IDX / RETS solutions like Diverse Solutions, HomeQuest, UltimateIDX and others are service providers who offer WordPress plugins as an extension of their service per se. I've had the privilege of working with The Brokers Edge and UltimateIDX both of which are solution providers that follow a similar format nearly all solution providers follow. Solution Providers maintain the MLS data in a single location and then provide access to it by monthly fee to their subscriber base. In essence, they do all the coding and scripting work, they do all the design work, they build a plugin or addon of sorts and they provide this as a turnkey solution for you to very quickly integrate into your WordPress blog. You don't actually host or harbor any data on your actual domain as the data is maintained and hosted by the service provider. These types of companies are ideal for providing turnkey solutions where you are not required to babysit or maintain the data yourself. This is a huge advantage when hosting on a shared server.
WPRealty is different in a way that requires you to be on a hosting platform that has the proper minimum requirements in order to function properly with MLS type data feeds. Hosting MLS data and updating it daily is unlike any other type of hosting you will encounter. With WPRealty and your own data loader feed, you are essentially downloading large data files and images and then processing those files to update your MySQL database and in doing so your server must be resource capable of supporting that.
Minimum Server Requirements for using WPRealty in an MLS environment are;
max_execution time should be at least 90 and up to 180+. Most shared hosting accounts have it set to 30 and higher numbers for max_execution are required because the MLS update scripts can easily exceed 30 seconds of processing of MLS data. The processing involves downloading, extracting, sometimes sorting of the data and then populating the MySQL database with listings data. This all takes script processing time.
As stated above, if you are not plugged into a service providers solution, then you are either hosting the listings images yourself or you are hot linking to the MLS (a popular and growing method MLS's tend to prefer). In either case, you must process the images in some way even if you are simply populating the image table with the names of the remotely linked photos. These all take up large amounts of space. I'll put it into perspective for you. If your MLS has 5,000 listings and your listings are allotted 12 photos per listing and those photos are on average 600x400 you will need an estimated 3GB of space not including the size of other files on your domain and the size of the SQL file. Most shared accounts are simply not setup for this type of space.
The next is fOpen and URL Includes.
Both of these are a valid security concern and hosting companies usually demand that you re-script accordingly or you suffer having the need for either. With real estate websites its not uncommon to need some sort of URL include for things like featured listings in your blog or maybe fopen to download MLS updates in zip or tar.gz format. I can’t count how many times I’ve encountered a situation where our normal download scripts fail to run on many servers. To reach out and access an IDX file via CURL or some other means, the server must first allow this type of connection.
Ports are blocked or closed
The RETS Port is 6103 and nearly every shared hosting solution blocks 6103 by default rendering most RETS scripts useless. If you can't access the required ports, you get no data.
Peak bandwidth and bandwidth throttling.
Part of the hosting game is to pack as many hosting clients as you realistically can on a server in order to justify that 24/7 support with all those exceptional unlimited everything features. The problem with that is the potential to bottle neck the connection and although load balancing and other things can be implemented to solve most of that, a good majority of IT professionals working for these hosting companies opt for some sort of bandwidth throttling. Bandwidth throttling will limit (“throttle”) the quantity of data it transmits and/or accepts within a specified period of time. This can cause some issues beginning with slow site response and time outs for larger commerce or real estate sites. Now its important to note that this isn’t usually associated to DB queries but can none the less include them. If you have several thousand listings and you are a good webmaster and you do the normal updates and exports to Google, Yahoo, MSN and the like. You will receive a spank of traffic for indexing alone and this can tank many sites to the point they become non-responsive. I’ve seen it happen all to often and it has always been revealed to us as being the web hosts safety net, bandwidth throttling. Most shared servers will keep a chain and ball on you so you don't tax every other domain.
So, you will need the following; A server with high max_execution time, large storage space, enough bandwidth to handle the data updates, the right ports to be open and things like lib curl and fopen to be enabled in many circumstances. Anything short of these are limitations that will prevent you from hosting your own MLS empowered WPRealty WordPress site. You may consider one of the service providers mentioned above.
Thanks in advance for any imput you may offer