How to Set Up a Proxy to Secure Your WordPress Website in 2023

Worrying about your WordPress website safety? Setting up a proxy might solve this issue. Read on to find out why you should consider setting up a proxy and how to do it with our 2023 Step-by-Step Guide.

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by Ulises Jeremias Cornejo Fandos


Ready to secure your WordPress with a proxy? Our 2023 Step-by-Step Guide is here! While our 2016 Guide still holds value, we’ve updated it to provide you with the latest information. Discover why setting up a proxy is essential, when to integrate it into your development process, and how to configure it using the latest best practices in this updated Guide. 

Table of contents

How Setting Up a Proxy Improves Your Platform?

Setting up a proxy secures your WordPress website by:

  • Adding a Security Layer, shielding your website from direct internet exposure. 

  • Distributing Incoming Traffic to filter malicious requests and minimize the risk of attacks. 

  • Anonymizing the IP address of your backend servers, making it harder to locate them. 

  • Centralizing User Access Control to help you manage the access to your website. 

Setting up a proxy enhances your WordPress website performance by:

  • Distributing the traffic across backend servers to prevent overloads. 

  • Caching static content to improve content delivery speed and UX. 

  • Rooting traffic to appropriate backend servers to enable scalability. 

  • Easing and securing maintenance tasks.  

When Should You Set Up a Proxy?

While it might not be necessary for local development, setting up a proxy is crucial before deploying to staging, testing, and production environments.

  • Staging and Testing Environments: These environments simulate production conditions so it’s essential to have the proxy set up during these phases to identify and solve any issue related to security, traffic distribution, and caching. 

  • Production Environment: It is vital to set up a proxy prior to deployment since it acts as an additional security layer. Without it, your platform is vulnerable. 

What’s new?

The best practices for setting up a proxy to secure WordPress websites have evolved since our 2016 blog post.  

  • Infrastructure: Infrastructure as Code (IaC) has become a standard practice for defining and managing infrastructure. Terraform is widely used to develop this kind of infrastructure.  

  • DevOps: DevOps practices have matured to enhance automation and collaboration. Implementing Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) contributes to automating deployment pipelines. 

Check out NaNLABS’ Github profile for ready-to-use tutorials, reference examples, and production-ready resources using all the tools mentioned above!

Dive into the 5-step Guide to Setting Up a Proxy and Secure your WordPress Website

Step 1: Setting up the Project Structure

Selecting the right web server and containerization strategy lays the groundwork for a robust project structure. Nginx, renowned for its high performance and reverse proxy capabilities, competes with the flexibility and module support of Apache. Assess your project requirements to make an informed choice.

In the realm of containerization, Docker caters well to small to medium-sized platforms, offering simplicity and efficiency. For larger applications with intricate orchestration needs, consider Kubernetes. Evaluate the scale and complexity of your project to determine the most suitable solution.

For the illustrative example ahead, we opted for Docker containers paired with an Nginx proxy.

Before diving into the file structure setup, ensure Docker is correctly configured on your server or local development environment. 

Now, let's embark on configuring the file structure using the provided scripts:

├─ compose.yml

├─ nginx/

│  ├─ default.conf

│  └─ nginx.conf

├─ wordpress/

│  └─ 000-default.conf

├─ db/

│  └─ init.sql

Want to set up development, testing, and production environments efficiently? Access our GitHub repository now! You’ll get a large list of ready-to-use resources that allow you to cater to various needs while maintaining flexibility and usability.  

Step 2: Setting up the Docker Compose configuration

Create the Docker Compose configuration that orchestrates the interaction between Nginx, WordPress, and MySQL using the following scripts:

This Docker Compose configuration sets up a simple yet powerful web environment with three services: Nginx, WordPress, and db

The Nginx service uses the lightweight Nginx web server to handle incoming requests, with custom configurations provided in the ./nginx directory. 

The WordPress service hosts a WordPress instance, linked to a MySQL database (db). The WordPress service is configured with essential parameters, such as the database host, user, password, and name. 

The db service relies on the MySQL image and initializes the database with provided scripts in the ./db directory. Volumes ensure data persistence and shared storage between containers. Finally, the configuration defines a named volume db-data for MySQL data storage. 

This setup enables you to run a WordPress website seamlessly, handling web requests through Nginx, storing content in the WordPress service, and managing the database in the MySql service

Step 3: Configuring Nginx

Open nginx/default.conf to optimize the Nginx configuration. Tailor it to enhance the front-end experience of your WordPress site, ensuring a seamless and secure gateway.

Step 4: Configuring WordPress

In wordpress/000-default.conf, fine-tune your WordPress configuration to align with your specifications. Define the ambiance of your digital space, setting the stage for a rich and engaging content experience.

Step 5: Configuring MySQL Initialization

Within db/init.sql, define the MySQL initialization script. Ensure it caters to the specific needs of your WordPress instance, establishing a robust foundation for data management.

For example, you can include something as follows:

Running Everything

Now you can run everything with a single command!

docker-compose up -d

You should be able to browse http://localhost:80 and see the WordPress website properly.

Explore our GitHub repository to configure Docker Compose with Nginx and MySQL for WordPress set up seamlessly. You’ll get access to all the scripts and resources you need to set up a proxy seamlessly and more! 🚀

NaNLABS’ Outlook 

WordPress is a popular platform for blogs, simple websites, and e-commerce platforms. However, at NaNLABS we decided to move away from it because it wasn’t adapted to our challenges anymore. We needed more flexibility and control, as we had to build complex web apps and face scalability challenges.  

Depending on the specifics of your project, there are alternative platforms and frameworks you can use: 

  • For custom web applications: React-based solutions are a great choice. They’re widely used which makes it easy to get support, and they rely on component-based architectures which foster code reusability. 

  • For content management: Headless CMS like Contentful or Strapi are interesting alternatives. They’re flexible, scalable, and secure. They separate the front-end from the back-end, allowing developers to design user interfaces with the technology of their choice.  

As an Agile software development partner, we always use tech stacks that suit our clients’ needs and allow their products to keep growing.   

Integrating Cloud Solutions 

Cloud solutions can have a part in the process of securing your Wordpress behind a proxy. They could complement this setup

Cloud providers offer managed services for load balancing, security, and scaling that can work in tandem with your proxy setup. You can leverage services like AWS Elastic Load Balancing, Azure Application Gateway, or Google Cloud Load Balancing to enhance your application's availability and security.

Ulises JeremiasSolutions Architect at NaNLABS.

Go Further 

Ready to take your platform’s safety to the next level? NaNLABS might be able to help!

Over the years, we’ve refined our expertise by teaming up with several cybersecurity partners. 

Discover how we streamline a cybersecurity platform while ensuring data protection. 

Let’s explore ways we can elevate your platform safety, together. Reach out now! 

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