If you need to scale your WordPress site, you might not know which technologies to start with. These industry standards will point you in the right direction.
Scaling a website is all about delivering blazingly fast speeds to a large number of users at any given time, without sacrificing security. However, it can be overwhelming to dive into scaling without any knowledge of which tools are worth using.
The good news is: we’ve been there, and done that. Top of the line managed WordPress hosting at scale is our specialty at Pagely, and we’re not afraid to share some of the knowledge and tools we’ve picked up along the way. Getting to know these industry standard tools will have you ready to begin your journey to a scaled web application in no time.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to four of our favorite tools scale WordPress. By the time you’re done, you should have a good concept of what they are and how to apply them in your own server stack.
1. LiteSpeed for Faster Web Servers
The type, quality, and configuration of your web servers plays a huge role in how quickly your website can load. Dynamic websites (such as those running on WordPress) rely on the server to process all of its PHP scripts. If you’re running a site to earn income, this should matter to you – even a single second delay can cause a 7% reduction in conversions.
Even with stellar server hardware, it’s important that the software is designed to make your website fly. Reliability is great, but matching it with speed is even better.
LiteSpeed is software designed to help your server process all of your website’s code at breakneck speed. With WordPress installed, it benchmarks at around six times the speed of a normal Apache server. If you’re not in the market for paid enterprise software, you can still speed up your site with the basic open-source version: OpenLiteSpeed.
In addition to speeding everything up, LiteSpeed brings a few extras to the table. One major side effect is that because your server should now run more efficiently, you’ll need less server power to maintain your growing online WordPress site. You’ll also get features such as bandwidth and connection throttling to protect you from would-be hackers.
Even better, LiteSpeed is compatible with existing Apache configuration and .htaccess files. These are commonly installed on most servers, meaning you’ll be able to make a seamless transition.
Given that there’s a free version, having your developers try out OpenLiteSpeed will make a lot of sense initially. If you’re happy with the results you’re seeing, you’ll then have the opportunity to move up to the more full-featured premium option.
2. HyperDB for Scaling Databases
Databases are a common bottleneck on large sites. They can slow down everything – even on a fast server – and bring the entire site to a halt when the connection fails. This can be catastrophic if you have many users loading your WordPress site at the same time.
‘Redundancy’ in the development world simply means that you’ve configured a number of similar solutions, so if one fails another can take over. Database redundancy specifically means having several identical databases to split the load when there are too many connections. This can save your site by reducing the chance of a database crash in the first place, while ensuring there is another database to keep the site running even if there is one.
It is especially important to ensure redundancy is set up for scaling sites. For example, if you’re running a custom WordPress site as a service, it should be able to withstand a large user base. Redundancy will improve performance for fast-scaling websites by ensuring the database(s) can keep up with sudden demand.
HyperDB is a small piece of code delivered as a plugin .zip file for convenience, offered by Automattic. It’s actually not a plugin in the normal sense of the word, but more of a code package delivery service with special installation instructions. HyperDB can’t replicate your databases for you, but connects your many databases to WordPress and manages the load balancing between them.
The main technical requirement for database redundancy is having multiple servers, with a separate database configured on each. From there, it’s a matter of setting up syncing the databases and ensuring WordPress knows how to communicate with each of them as needed for optimum performance.
3. Varnish for HTTP Web Caching
Imagine that your server crunches dynamic code at unbelievably fast speeds. This still takes a lot of computation, and every user attempting to access your site will add a new stress to the server’s resources. However, many files look and act the same every time they’re loaded, meaning they shouldn’t have to be regenerated every time.
To reduce this waste of computational resources and decrease the chance your server will cause a performance bottleneck, you can lighten the load on your server with caching. There are a few ways to implement this technology, but today we’ll cover server-side caching.
This is where Varnish comes in. It works by storing requests to the server (called HTTP requests), and saving them for the future whenever it makes sense to. This way, the server can serve the exact same page from its cache without regenerating it multiple times. This style of caching is called a ‘HTTP reverse proxy’.
Using a HTTP reverse proxy such as Varnish can speed up your site by up to 1,000 times! This is because pre-generated pages take virtually no time or server resources to serve to users.
What’s more, Varnish is free software, so there is not much financial risk to having your developers give it a whirl, as long as your server meets the requirements. Even better, because it’s free, if Varnish works well for your website, you can keep it running without a premium upgrade.
4. Armor for Maximum Security
Lax security can cause a world of pain, both technically and legally, for your quick-scaling application company. It’s best to take proactive measures to protect your app and its users from unsavory types.
Armor, previously known as Firehost, provides server security specifically designed for scaling applications. This is important, because scaling websites have different requirements than more established large sites. Rapidly scaling sites are more likely to shift and change, and can have unusual but legitimate spikes in traffic that would perhaps trigger normal security alarms.
Unlike a few of the previous tools, Armor is only available as a premium service. However, they provide a free assessment tool to help you identify current gaps in your security. Whether you choose Armor or not, you can always use the results to find a solution that works for you.
Of course, we can recommend all four of these tools so highly because we’ve bundled them into our own services, and optimized them to work together seamlessly. However, if you’d rather take the do-it-yourself approach, you can install all of these tools on a custom server if you wish.
If you’re at the point where you need to scale up your WordPress site, it can be difficult to know which technologies to get started with. Knowing about industry standards will point you in the right direction. You can also skip all the custom configuration, and choose a managed host that specializes in scaled WordPress sites.
To review, in this post we’ve covered the following tools you should consider for your next big WordPress project:
- LiteSpeed: To increase the speed of your web server.
- HyperDB: This tools helps with database redundancy.
- Varnish: A caching tool that enables quick delivery of already-rendered files.
- Armor: A fully premium service for security designed to scale.
What’s your favorite tool to scale WordPress? Let us know in the comments section below.