Jan 18 2021

WordPress and Scalability: A Brief Guide

AnnexCore

From a niche blogging network to the biggest content management system powering almost one-third of all the websites, WordPress’s success is a textbook case of how a tech platform can capitalize on its strengths and gradually shed its weaknesses. Among WordPress’s many strengths that have become its USPs over the years, its scalability functions are undoubtedly worth mentioning.

If you have noticed, both small and large businesses use WordPress to build their website. Whether it is a mom-and-pop roadside shop or an international e-commerce store, both these enterprises with entirely different business requirements and approaches will opt for WordPress and its same set of themes and templates.

This trend alone suggests that WordPress offers virtually limitless scalability through which a website with a couple of dozens or hundreds of monthly views can scale up for above-million monthly views without needing any drastic changes and overhauls.

If you have a WP website and think that you may have to scale it up in the future, continue reading this article. Here, we will discuss all that you need to know about — web traffic, WordPress scalability, and how you can scale up your WP website in due time.

An Understanding of High Web Traffic

Many businesses that are new to the digital medium don’t fully grasp the idea of internet traffic. They consider building and launching a website as a one-time task. Many of them are under the false impression that a website can cater to their growing/future business needs in its existing state for the rest of their lives once it goes online.

However, that’s not how websites work. Just like a brick-and-mortar establishment needs continuous improvements and timely expansions, a website also needs regular overhauls and scaling-up. The primary reason a business needs to scale up its WP website is the increased amount of online traffic. Let’s try to understand how increased web traffic affects the site performance and forces you to scale it up with a real-life example.

Suppose there is a small roadside department store that can easily manage all the daily consumer foot traffic. As time passes by, the store owner’s good sales and marketing strategy start paying off, which translates into an uptick in the consumer foot traffic.

Eventually, the consumer foot traffic increases to a point where it becomes difficult for the store to accommodate all of them at once. While it is a good problem to have, if the store owner doesn’t address it, this will lead to customer dissatisfaction where many of them will start heading to competitor stores.

To make sure the store doesn’t experience customer attrition and continues to uphold its brand value, the owner has to expand the square footage/ size of the store.

The same scenario can play out in the digital world. If the web traffic of an online business keeps growing, its existing website will be overloaded. This will result in slow response time and frequent crashes of the site on the user end. Just as consumers don’t like to wait outside the store or become a part of long queues, online users hate to sit through slow-loading and repetitive site crashes.

While the owner of a roadside store needs to increase its size, a WP web owner has to scale up its website enmake sure its digital platform continues to accommodate the high traffic.

What Is WP Web Scaling?

A platform that boasts good scalability allows you to scale up or down your website. WordPress offers impressive scalability functions that can come in quite useful when you need to expand your virtual business capacity, like the scenario mentioned above. Before we explain web scaling, it is important to dispel some misconceptions about it.

When someone says they will scale up their WP website, it doesn’t mean they will add more pages or increase its layout features. Scaling up a website entails improving its capacity to accommodate more workload without undergoing a performance drop. For a WP website, the workload is the amount of online traffic it entertains. Usually, a website is scaled up by increasing its network bandwidth. You can also use a range of other measures and methods to scale up a WP website that we will discuss later in the article.

Web Scalability: Not Every Website Might be Scalable

Until now, you must have understood what high web traffic is and what is meant by scaling up a website. However, it is also essential to understand the concept of web scalability. Again we have to use the roadside department store example used above to elucidate our point.

After the store owner concludes that they have to expand their shop, they realize that there is no room for expansion. Other establishments already surround the existing store location. The only scaling option the owner has is to move to some other location that boasts bigger square footage. In terms of scalability, we will say that the store owner doesn’t have a scalable store and has to move to another place. However, if there had an empty backside space, we would say that the store is scalable.

The same is the case with websites. Some websites are built on platforms where you don’t have too many scalability options. When a web owner has to scale up their website, they have to move to another location with a new URL. On the other hand, a scalable website (e.g., any WP website) can grow in line with the business requirement and growth at the same location with no URL, layout, and back-end changes.

However, scaling up a WP website doesn’t mean having a button you can press to scale up your web platform. There is a list of measures that you need to consider for scaling up your WP website. In the next section, we will discuss those WordPress web scaling up tips and tricks.

6 Measures to Scale up Your WP Website

Let’s look at six things you need to do to scale up your WP website. Before we start outlining them, it is important to mention here that measure #1 is a complete solution in itself. If you opt for this measure, you may not need to rely on the rest of the measure discussed in the article.

1.  Sign Up for a Hosting Plan that Offers both Horizontal and Vertical Scaling

This one measure enables you to set your online WP expansion plan in the right direction. If you have just set up a WP website or about to set up one, you need to make sure that the hosting plan you opt for offers both horizontal and vertical scaling facilities. Since horizontal and vertical scaling has different meanings in different areas, we will try to explain it in the context of a WP website.

Vertical scaling defines the conventional improvement of bandwidth, storage, and visitor quantity limits of your website. WP hosting platforms usually provide this in a tiered form where you can level up your website as its traffic grows. Vertical scaling is primarily provided by increasing the server resources of the given website.

On the other hand, horizontal scaling entails assigning more servers to a website for handling its increased traffic. This is different from how vertical scaling works, where only a single server is assigned to a website. Usually, vertical scaling involves setting up separate servers for the front-end and back-end (proxy, database servers, etc.) of your WP website. This branched out scaling enables the web host to ensure that a website can scale for the ongoing back-end requirements.

Vertical scaling is usually best suited for websites that experience regular high traffic and occasional overwhelming traffic peaks. Most managed WP hosting services offer vertical scaling by default. However, horizontal scaling is only offered by seasoned full-managed WP hosting providers because it involves working on a service-oriented architecture.

You must have understood why we advocate for signing up with someone that offers both vertical and horizontal scaling. By taking a hosting partner that offers both scaling options onboard, you can easily scale up your website with your business growth for a long time without too much hassle and back and forth.

If you are not working with a seasoned managed WP hosting provider, you should focus on these measures to scale up your website.

2. Put a Cap on SQL Requests

An overwhelming number of SQL queries characterize the back-end of a website experiencing high traffic. If you want to make sure that your WP website can serve more users from the existing back-end structure, you need to put a cap on auto-loading SQL queries. Depending on your bandwidth, a limit set between 100 and 200 will protect your website from going down amid bouts of higher traffic.

3. Leverage Caching Plugins

Another way to scale up your website without increasing its bandwidth is by improving its cache performance. An improved cache performance can come in quite handy when your website boasts a significant number of repeat users. Caching plugins like Hummingbird and WP Fastest Cache can help you cut down the overall HTTPS server requests by returning all the repeated content from the users’ cache memory.

4.  Use CDN Servers

Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) are the server arrangement spread through a certain geographical area. One of the main advantages of using CDN servers is that they improve the response time of your website in the geographically-distant regions. A single server operating from one location often struggles to maintain its response time when experiencing more traffic from different distant locations.

For instance, a website operated from Sydney will start taking longer to load in London after experiencing an uptick in its total traffic. A CDN server setup helps you get around this issue. If your WP website enjoys a worldwide audience, you need to move it to a CDN to scale it up for the increased traffic.

5. Benefit from Lazy Loading

Lazy loading entails the concept where a webpage loads as you scroll down the page rather than fully loaded on the first click. Lazy loading can manage your database’s load if your WP site features long pages with too many images. The lazy loading will ensure that all the bouncing customers who are not scrolling down the entire page don’t inadvertently hurt your site’s bandwidth. There are WP plugins that you can use to implement lazy loading on your webpages without tweaking the CSS/PHP coding of the pages.

6.  Optimize Visual Content

Lazy loading can only protect your bandwidth to an extent. If your site experiences high traffic where most users scroll down the visited pages, lazy loading plugins won’t help. In such cases, you will need something that can unconditionally optimize your visual content. Again, WP plugins will come to your rescue. A plugin like Smush will resize and compress the site’s images without sacrificing their quality to shed some load off the bandwidth and server.

Final Words

We hope that the above discussion has helped you understand WP scalability, the need to scaling up a WP website, and how to do it. In the last section of the article, it becomes quite clear that you may not necessarily need to increase your network bandwidth and branch out your servers to scale up your website. The smart use of WP plugins can also help you prepare your website for increased traffic.

However, the first measure we have discussed in the last section also makes a strong case for getting a good managed WP hosting provider onboard. If your budget allows you to work with a hosting service that provides vertical and horizontal scaling, you should opt for this option. Having this holistic expertise at your disposal will let you deal with all sorts of WP scalability challenges in the near and distant future.

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