Blogging Tip #746: Prepare to be Dugg

by Andrew · 1 comment

This post is written in the spirit of Mike’s Professional Confessional series: I effed up, learned a few lessons, and want to share my new wisdom in hopes of keeping you from making the same mistake.

To err is human, rt? Then bloggers must be superhuman, because I’ve logged a heck of a lot of lessons-learned in 3 short months. On Monday I published a post that quickly became The Daily Anchor’s most-trafficked post to date, and my lack of preparedness for such a traffic spike brought the site to its knees.

The post, 31 WordPress Plugins to Enhance Your Blog and Life, listed the most useful WordPress plugins I’ve used since The Daily Anchor went live in January. Ironically, it ended up being the very plugins I was promoting – or at least the fact that I was using too many at once – that caused an excessive draw on the server once traffic spiked, and thus I exceeded my CPU quota and my shared-hosting provider, BlueHost, temporarily suspended my account. Ironic, isn’t it?

To be sure, any blog that expects to receive healthy traffic – and certainly every corporate website and blog – should be hosted on a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or Dedicated Server. I made the noob mistake of thinking that since we’re a new site, it’d make the most sense to launch on a cost-effective shared server ($7/month) and then upgrade once we “got big.” Turns out that cost-effective isn’t so effective, and I’m the wiser for it.

Key Takeaways:

  1. We made it to the front page of Digg - 486 Diggs and counting
  2. There have been 240+ Tweets about the post in the last 18 hours
  3. The post received 5,000+ pageviews in a 5 hour period
  4. Digg alone referred 3,500 visitors in a 90-minute period… 38 people per minute!

Thanks to all that great buzz, I overloaded my shared server’s CPU limit and BlueHost temporarily suspended my account:

It turns out, though, that it wasn’t the sheer number of visitors that got my account suspended, it was the fact that I had too many WordPress plugins running simultaneously, which were drawing too much bandwith (via mySQL queries) on the server.

Unable to access my WordPress admin, I had to log into my FTP and manually delete a few recently installed (and expendable) WP plugins, and lo and behold, within 5 minutes the site was back up.

Lessons learned:

  1. Having WP-SuperCache installed and turned on isn’t enough to prevent you from exceeding your CPU quota
  2. While plugins are the very incarnation of WordPress’ magnificence, using too many at once or using plugins that conflict with one another can break your blog. VelvetBlues posted a great article on the subject, Are Plugins Ruining Your WordPress Website?
  3. The most important lesson of all is that I never should have been hosted on a shared server to begin with. It’s a novice mistake, and I’ve realized that if I want The Daily Anchor to be able to scale as I’d like it to scale, then the back-end needs to be able to handle it. Yes, getting on a VPS or Dedicated Server will mean spending a few hundred dollars a month instead of $7, but what’s the point of having a site if every time I get good traffic my hosting account is suspended?

There you have it, Blogging Tip # 746: Prepare to be Dugg. Turn caching on, don’t overuse plugins, and don’t skimp on your web hosting.

Now, any recommendations for a reliable, cost-effective VPS or Dedicated Server with great customer support?

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