The past few weeks have been frustrating for me because my primary WordPress website (this one: speedofcreativity.org) has been crashing immediately after I’ve published a new post and shared that link on social media. (Twitter and Google+). Based on the numerous trouble ticket exchanges I’ve had with my web host, it sounds like each time my server crashed it ran out of memory and was overwhelmed with PHP (WordPress database) requests. On the one hand this sounds like a good problem for a blogger, since it could mean lots of people are apparently clicking links when I share them on social media. On the other hand, it’s a very BAD problem to have since the last thing you want after sharing a blog post link is for that website to be inaccessible / down. My web host suggested upgrading my hosting plan so I have access to more RAM, as well as optimizing my WordPress installation in several ways. I suspected my problem might be a security plugin I installed a couple months ago, since its FAQ indicates it can have large server RAM requirements. After disabling it, however, my server crash issues continued so it appears it may not have been the culprit. The past couple weeks I’ve tried unsuccessfully to get the free plugin “W3 Total Cache” installed and configured, but could never get the images on my site to properly render from Amazon CloudFront. Back in 2010 when I was with a different web host, I successfully configured this WordPress plug-in to reduce the load on my server. See my October 2010 post, “WordPress Site Caching with Amazon S3 & CloudFront” for more details. I finally decided to give up on that option this time and try to configure “WP Super Cache” instead. It doesn’t use a 3rd party CDN (content delivery network) like the Amazon cloud to reduce server load, but it is maintained by Automattic (the company behind WordPress.com) and is also highly rated.
After spending a couple hours this evening troubleshooting some irritating WordPress header issues caused by WP Super Cache, I think I have it properly installed and configured. This post is going to be the test to see if my web server can avoid a crash after I click the publish button in WordPress and share the link on social media. I have QUITE a few posts that I’ve been wanting (and even NEEDING, with the K-12 Online Conference almost over now) to share, but there hasn’t been any point in writing new posts if each of them would crash my server.
Here’s a lesson learned: There is great value in using a free blogging platform like Blogger.com or a commercially supported platform like WordPress.com or SquareSpace. When you self-host a WordPress website, the technical support your hosting provider can or will give you is limited and may not be sufficient to help you troubleshoot all the problems you’ll encounter. I’m still very glad to be using WordPress (I’m still maintaining something like 30 different installs across different domains now) but I’m more aware than ever of the “limits” of my own technical expertise and troubleshooting abilities. I continue to try and develop these further, but sometimes my need for technical help outstrips my “geek quotient.”
Hopefully “WP Super Cache” will be my rescuer tonight and solve my server instability problems!
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