Enhancing WordPress Scalability for High Traffic Websites
Scalability is crucial for running a successful enterprise WordPress website. After all, if you experience a sudden surge in traffic (for example, as the result of a viral content post), you’ll want your website to be able to cope. Failure to do so could result in poor site performance.
Fortunately, ensuring your site is optimally scalable doesn’t have to be a daunting task. It requires testing how your site performs under pressure, identifying the elements that are causing slow load speeds, and choosing a reliable hosting provider.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through some steps you can take to ensure your site stays speedy under heavy traffic. Here’s what we’ll cover:
Understanding WordPress Scalability for High Traffic
In order to understand why scalability is important for your WordPress enterprise site, it’s important to see exactly how high traffic can slow down performance. This way, the task of implementing measures to increase scalability becomes much easier.
Most WordPress themes and plugins should function reasonably well under a moderate amount of traffic strain. However, a sudden increase in traffic could cause them to push server resources to their breaking points.
The process of overloading server resources is known as “bottlenecking traffic,” and it’s definitely something you want to avoid. In addition to driving visitors away, an underperforming site will create the impression of unprofessionalism and unreliability.
Scaling WordPress to Serve High Traffic
The best approach for scaling WordPress and avoiding bottlenecks is via the “less is more” approach. This means ensuring requests sent to your site require minimal resources, and little effort to render and serve.
Ensuring you have a good caching system in place is important for improving site performance under strain. With cached versions of your site available to users, your server won’t have to take a hit every time a user makes a new request.
It could be the case that your database is causing bottlenecks. Although it’s possible to use a tool such as HyperDB to resolve this issue yourself, they have limited use. Switching to a better hosting plan is an easier (and better) option.
Given the tasks that need to be performed to ensure scalability, you may ask if WordPress is really a viable Content Management System (CMS) for your enterprise site? The answer to this question is an emphatic Yes.
Optimizing WordPress Scalability for Enterprise Sites
WordPress is a great platform for enterprise sites of virtually any size. In addition to being highly secure, it is extremely scalable and able to serve tens of thousands of logged-in users at a time. The wide variety of performance-enhancing plugins available for WordPress, coupled with its elastic architecture, also contribute to its scalability.
Although there are plenty of ways to extend the default platform, it’s strongly recommended to invest in scalable WordPress hosting to enjoy the best results. With enterprise hosting, you won’t need to invest time and resources ensuring your site is scalable. Instead, you’ll benefit from a robust architecture, regularly audited and adjusted, and reliable support.
In short, by choosing managed WordPress hosting (such as that offered by WP Engine) you can rest easy knowing your site will function at peak performance, regardless of the traffic strain.
Keep Your Options Table Under Control
Earlier, we mentioned how your database can give rise to a traffic bottleneck. This is because it stores practically all of your WordPress site’s data within. The Options table is one particular source of potential bottlenecks, which brings us to the next section.
Overloading the Options Table
The Options table (or wp_options for default setups) can be accessed through phpMyAdmin, or your host’s equivalent service. Your table should display in a similar fashion to the following:
Tweaking aspects of the database can break your installation, so we recommend backing up your site beforehand).
Within the Options table, the option_value column has the LONGTEXT string type. Knowing why is complex, but essentially, it means each column can store up to 4GB of data in a single row. However, just because it’s possible doesn’t mean you should store that much data.
While removing unnecessary plugins or choosing a more lightweight theme can help reduce table size, some poorly-coded plugins leave behind data after being uninstalled. Working through a good guide on optimizing your database is a sound strategy.
Some data from your tables is ‘autoloaded’ – usually relating to your themes, plugins, and widgets. However, autoloaded queries can be a silent page speed killer. If you’re having page load speed issues, try identifying how many queries are being autoloaded.
Again, a solid guide will help you, but you’ll essentially need to run MySQL queries on your database. For example, the following assumes a default table prefix of wp_:
mysql> SELECT count(*) FROM wp_options WHERE autoload=’yes’;
A good rule of thumb is to shoot for fewer than 200 autoloaded queries on any given WordPress page (although having more than 200 isn’t necessarily a cause for concern). Usually, an excessive amount of autoloaded queries indicates your site is still carrying weight from old plugins and themes. Getting rid of these can help improve your site speed and scalability.
There are a variety of other methods you can use to clean out unnecessary autoloaded data, and as with the previous step, you should back up your WordPress site before proceeding.
Scalable WordPress Hosting
As we mentioned earlier, a great way to take the guesswork out of keeping your site scalable is to invest in robust WordPress enterprise hosting. At WP Engine, we can create a custom enterprise WordPress hosting solution geared to the specific needs of your organization.
When you choose our custom enterprise hosting solution, you will benefit from a high-performance infrastructure. Our partnership with the Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services means your site can benefit from extremely fast loading times, high scalability, and dependable security. We also offer managed onboarding (ensuring your WordPress installation can accommodate new staff), and proprietary caching.
Discover WordPress Scalability With WP Engine
WP Engine’s infrastructure is ideal for enterprise websites with high traffic (accommodating spikes ranging from 10,000 to 100 million users effortlessly). We deliver high-availability solutions to keep your site uptime protected, and your data backed up in the event of a performance issue.