Optimizing Your WordPress Site’s Uptime for Great User Experience - Sette

Jun 29

Optimizing Your WordPress Site’s Uptime for Great User Experience

If your customers can’t visit your WordPress website because it’s down, what’s the point of having one?

In the case of WordPress and web development, the percentage of time in which your site is up and available is called uptime.

It’s crucial that your website’s uptime is as close to 100% as possible since 47% of visitors expect your website to load within 2 seconds.

Fortunately, you can optimize your website’s uptime by optimizing its performance in several key ways.

Here are the most critical ways to optimize the performance and uptime of your WordPress site.

How Performance Impacts Uptime

The overall performance of your WordPress website directly impacts the percentage of time it’s up and available.

Each time a page on your site loads, it uses up server resources. If those resources are depleted, your server shuts down and your site becomes unavailable.

Optimizing your site’s performance helps reduce the load on the server where it’s hosted and helps use up fewer resources. This translates into a faster loading site for a great user experience as well as a higher percentage of uptime.

In other words, it’s a win-win situation.

A Reliable and Secure Server

Hosting your WordPress website on a reliable and secure server is the most important factor for determining your site’s uptime. If your server isn’t structured properly or otherwise goes down frequently, then any other improvements you make will be a moot point.

After all, no one‘s going to be able to experience the effects of your performance optimizations if your server goes down and they can’t access it at all.

If your server also doesn’t implement enough security measures, then it leaves your site and your server vulnerable to attack.

Hackers could take advantage of the lax security and bring down your server with their attacks. They could also use your site for spam or hijack it completely, erasing everything and replacing it with their own political propaganda, spam or malware.

For details on this, check out How to Troubleshoot WordPress If You May Have Been Hacked.

It’s important that you host your site on a reliable server for optimal uptime.

Shared Hosting is a No Go

When you’re out searching for a reliable and secure hosting provider, don’t opt for a shared hosting plan if your priority is uptime. This type of hosting is unreliable as one server is shared by as many hosting accounts and sites that can fit onto them.

To make as much money as possible, many hosts also over stuff their shared hosting servers. As more and more accounts are created with sites that are hosted on the same server, the number of visitors increases, which uses up the server’s resources. Once they’re depleted, the server goes down.

When this happens, every site on the server becomes unavailable until the issue is fixed by the host rebooting the server.

The vicious cycle inevitably continues as users keep visiting the many sites owned by all the accounts smothered together on the single server and its resources are used up frequently. The result is rolling outages that can occur as frequently as several times per day.

Even shared hosting servers that aren’t packed full could lead to outages, though, often not as frequently.

Not to mention that with so many sites on one server, if just one of them gets hacked or attacked, every single other site on that same server becomes vulnerable.

Once a hacker has infiltrated a shared hosting server, they can work to get through to every site hosted there. They would have access to all the files of each site, which can hold sensitive information.

In the case of WordPress, the wp-config.php file contains the name of the corresponding database for the site as well as its username and password. Once a hacker has access to this file, they can immediately access your database, which holds even more sensitive details such as all user accounts’ login credentials and email addresses.

With this in mind, that means that once the hacker has access to the server, they could quickly gain access to every site hosted there.

If they hacked only one site, they could still work their way into the server, where they could then infiltrate every other site on the server as described above.

It’s like a robber breaking into a house through the front door. Once they’re in the house, every other room can be accessed pretty easily. Either there’s no lock on the doors or the robber otherwise sees all the keys to the rooms on a key hook by the front door.

That isn’t to say that WordPress isn’t inherently secure. It certainly is, but it’s also important to do your part to ensure its security.

For details, check out WordPress Core is Secure – Stop Telling People Otherwise and The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Security.

Best Hosting for Optimizing Uptime

So shared hosting isn’t a sufficient option if your goal is uptime, but what is then? Overall, it depends on how big your site is, how fast it’s growing and your budget. But there are some hosting plans that are inherently going to be a better option for the optimal uptime of your site.
The most reliable hosting plan is one where you don’t need to share a server or at the very least, you’re sharing it with the least amount of other accounts as possible.

This naturally rules out shared hosting and you should aim for a VPS, dedicated server or cloud hosting.

Keep in mind that not every hosting provider is made equal so be sure to do your due diligence and research your options before settling down into a server.

Other than that, a general rule of thumb for choosing a type of hosting is to choose the best that you can afford. Hosting can get expensive, especially if you choose an enterprise plan. While that isn’t a practical option for many, it’s important that you choose a reliable host that’s affordable, but can also provide you with some wiggle room for growth in the future.

Ensuring your website is hosted on a VPS or better helps improve its uptime.

Enable Server-Side Caching

After you have chosen a reliable and secure hosting plan or you have migrated to one, applying some server-side caching is one of the next best steps to ensure optimal uptime for your site.

In simplest terms, caching is temporarily saving and storing data from a web page when it loads with the purpose of being immediately available for the next time the same page is loaded. This results in a page that loads faster for subsequent visits.

WordPress inherently produces dynamic content that takes several requests from a visitor’s browser in order for it to be served up.

Caching creates a static version of the content that’s saved to reduce the number of requests that need to be sent for the page to be loaded. This leads to a faster loading website.

It also means less server resources are used each time a page is loaded, which dramatically increases the chances that your site stays up and available.

Client-Side vs Server-Side Caching

Modern browsers use caching to help users browse the web faster and the WordPress Codex explains what it is well:

“Browser caching can help to reduce server load by reducing the number of requests per page. For example, by setting the correct file headers on files that don’t change (static files like images, CSS, JavaScript etc) browsers will then cache these files on the user’s computer. This technique allows the browser to check to see if files have changed, instead of simply requesting them. The result is your web server can answer many more 304 responses, confirming that a file is unchanged, instead of 200 responses, which require the file to be sent.”

This is also often referred to as client-side caching.

Caching can also be leveraged on server-level. There are several types of server-side caching you can implement in WordPress:

  • Page caching – Processing dynamic HTML pages and generating a static version that’s stored for the next time it’s visited
  • Database query caching – Saving and storing the outcome of a database query in local storage to serve up later if it remains unchanged
  • Object caching – Decreasing the number of calls to the database by saving and storing certain programming objects
  • PHP opcode caching – Saving and storing compiled PHP code between requests

While it’s not necessary to apply all these types of caching, the more you can enable on your site, the better. It leaves the fate of your site’s uptime directly in your hands since you can control every aspect of your site’s performance, rather than leaving it up to the end user and their browser.

For details, check out WordPress Optimization/Caching, The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Caching and The Importance of Caching in WordPress.

The best way to implement server-side caching is to use a plugin, which is discussed later on.

Use a Content Delivery Network

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is cluster of servers scattered around the world that act as an interim to a website. A site’s content is displayed from the server that the visitor is closest to in order to achieve faster loading times.

When you use a CDN with your website, it reduces the load on your server because you’re leveraging the CDN’s servers to help offset the cost of resources.

This means a CDN can help increase your WordPress site’s uptime since your server is less burdened and doesn’t have to use up all its available resources even when traffic increases dramatically.

Using a CDN is also particularly helpful in reducing the threat of Denial of Service (DoS) and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks which send copious amounts of traffic to a website in an effort to prevent genuine users from visiting the site or to find vulnerabilities in its security to exploit with an automatic program called a bot.

The extra flood of traffic often uses up all the resources of the attacked server and it shuts down as a result, taking any websites hosted on it down as well.

Using a CDN can help lessen the burden on your server when such attacks occur so that the risk of your site going down dramatically reduces. If you use a quality CDN, your site would be practically impervious to DDoS and DoS attacks.

If your site’s uptime is important to you, then you should use a CDN with your WordPress site.

For details, check out What is a CDN?  and Best Free and Premium CDN (Content Delivery Network) Services for WordPress.

A Content Delivery Network speeds up your site and improves its uptime at the same time.

Step up Your Security

As mentioned above, DDoS and DoS attacks can significantly and negatively impact your WordPress site’s uptime.

The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) describes a DoS attack as:

“In a denial-of-service (DoS) attack, an attacker attempts to prevent legitimate users from accessing information or services. By targeting your computer and its network connection, or the computers and network of the sites you are trying to use, an attacker may be able to prevent you from accessing email, websites, online accounts (banking, etc.), or other services that rely on the affected computer.”

US-CERT also defines a DDoS attack as:

“In a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, an attacker may use your computer to attack another computer. By taking advantage of security vulnerabilities or weaknesses, an attacker could take control of your computer. He or she could then force your computer to send huge amounts of data to a website or send spam to particular email addresses. The attack is “distributed” because the attacker is using multiple computers, including yours, to launch the denial-of-service attack.”

While you can’t stop a hacker from attacking computers and websites, you can help prevent attacks from slowing down or shutting down your server and site.

Here are a few ways to help alleviate DDoS and DoS attacks on your server:

  • Host your website with a hosting provider that provides a secure server that also can help filter out malicious or suspicious IP addresses and activity before they’re able to hit your site.
  • Use a content delivery network.
  • Install antivirus software and regularly scan your computer for viruses.
  • Use a secure internet connection and don’t log into your website using a public WiFi connection.
  • Don’t provide admin or editor accounts for your site to anyone you don’t trust.
  • Use security and anti-spam plugins on your WordPress website.
  • Regularly scan your website for malware and suspicious traffic and activity.
  • Get a hosting plan with ample resources. To help reduce the impact of DDoS and DoS attacks and as a general rule of thumb, your website shouldn’t exceed 45% of your server’s resources on a regular day when your site isn’t being attacked.
    • If you find your site is using more server resources than it should, upgrade your hosting plan or migrate your site to a more reliable and secure server.

Also be sure to check out The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Security and WordPress DDoS Attacks, A Problem You Can’t Protect Against With Plugins.

Your One-Stop Optimization Shop

You can use a plugin (or two!) to help manage your site’s performance and increase its reliability with the critical suggestions mentioned above.

There are many great plugins and tools that are available to optimize your site’s performance and uptime:

The health of your whole site is taken care of and better yet, you won’t have to worry about your site anymore.

Wrapping Up

Your WordPress website is the best way to connect your customers with your business, but if your site becomes unavailable, then you lose out on not only sales, but trust in your business as well.

That’s why making sure your website is up and running all the time is critical. Fortunately, the strategies above should help you achieve this for your WordPress site.


Does your website have troubles with uptime or performance? In what ways do you want to optimize your WordPress site? Feel free to share your experience in the comments below.

 

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