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Resource Usage: Just how much was I really using?

As I mentioned in a earlier post, hogging server resources was one of the reasons why I kept jumping from host to host to run my WordPress powered blog.  Despite trying to optimize my site and using Super Cache to reduce resource hogging, the thing still gave me fits.  I used to have 30+ plugins, then reduced it to 25, then 20, and so on, watching all the funsie features that once made my blog stick out from the rest slowly disappear.

While WordPress bills itself on its boundless features via the use of plugins, it’s never emphasized enough that these boundless features come at a price: they SUCK UP the server’s juice faster than Megamaid sucking the air out of Planet Druidia (Spaceballs reference for the un-informed.)

The problem was, it was never readily clear just how much of a resource hog my blog truly was.  I’d run it on a host and things would be fine for a while, and then suddenly it would go down, with unexplainable cryptic server errors or Gateway 502 messages that were about as helpful as a GPS without a battery.

Eventually I wound up at Site5, where for the first time my blog finally hummed along without issue for a few months.  The service was SO good I thought I could finally put these issues behind me once and for all… that is until I got a message from Site5 support saying I was using too many resources.  This after not hearing a peep for 5 months, and not doing anything different with the site.

Wuuuuuut?

Nothing on my blog had changed in that timeframe, so I couldn’t understand it.  Still, I did what I could without fundamentally revamping the backend of plugins I crucially needed for advertising, and after a few days of hair tearing, they said I was fine and closed the ticket.  By this time though I was getting down to bare functionality.  I may as well have started a vanilla blog at WordPress.com for all the features I now lost.  That’s pretty much when I threw in the towel for WordPress.  It had become the Bane to my Batman.  I was broken.

Ivan Drago Death Stare

I must break- whoops, too late.

And then a couple of months later I get another message from Site5 support saying I was using too many resources.  AGAIN.  After insulting the poor guy’s mother (or something), I relented and upgraded to a higher tier service at their suggestion, and the ticket was closed again.  It was only a couple of dollars more a month, but I was still insulted.  I was absolutely convinced they were lying about my resource usage and were only trying to upsell me into more expensive hosting plans.

But then Site5 did a smart thing: they had an ongoing project to develop a resource usage metric that customers could analyze for themselves, and thus get a better sense of just exactly how much of the server’s juice their sites were using.  It’s being rolled out on a continual basis, but I noticed it was available to me early, so I checked it out of curiosity.  Sure enough, I was just above the allotted resource usage allowed for my account.

Sigh.

Because they’ve been so behind on notifying users that have been going over resource limits, I was humming along with the false sense of security in thinking my site was finally operating within limits, yet the reality was I was eventually going to be notified again.

There’s been some noise on the web that the algorithms they are using to monitor resource usage are either too strict or being faked as a marketing gimmick to badger customers into upgrading into more expensive hosting plans, but I don’t believe that’s the case.  While it’s proprietary, I do believe they have plans to release the algorithms that drive these metrics, so I’m confident that there’s no malice here, and while their resource usage requirements are a bit stricter, it’s still more than adequate to handle the vast majority of sites running on their servers.  A well built WordPress site simply should not be using nearly as enough resources as mine was, even if my traffic quadrupled, especially with caching.  There’s just no way.

I knew I was going to have to do something though, so I went to work to get my usage down, finally addressing what I had been putting off, which was RIPPING out a plugin called PHP Code Widget, which allows me to add PHP code to my WordPress widgets.  I was using it for my ads, but I switched over to a Javascript solution instead, and spent a few hours reworking the code.  I knew if that wouldn’t do the trick I was going to have to change the theme.  There was no other possibility that could explain the resource hogging.

So did it make a difference?  Well:

Daily Resource Points Graph from Site5

Slight difference there…

Oy.

A mystery that has plagued me since God only knows when… is finally solved.

And you’re all wondering why I burned out from blogging?

I now feel bad because I was really obnoxious with Site5 the last time their support contacted me.  I was just so fed up with everything that they bore the brunt of my frustrations, yet, they are actually the first host to take a more proactive role in at least giving me some idea of how bad my resource usage was (although I think Media Temple has something similar.)  Now when I add a plugin I can see how it impacts overall resource usage right away, so I know whether it’s safe enough to keep running it or delete it altogether.

Not that I would, since I’m no longer using WordPress (that ship has LONG sailed now.)  Imajustsayin.

Still, it’s good to know that’s one chapter I can FINALLY close with all finality in a final way.  Finally.

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