There are many reasons why website traffic overload occurs. As the CEO of a hosting company, I see the problem of traffic overload occurring frequently.
Take the example of a small business. They manage their own website, which receives a low and steady amount of traffic. Then, the company is featured in a news article, on television, or promoted during a community event. They receive an unprecedented spike in traffic. With so many individuals on an unprepared website, it can slow down and crash.
We saw this happen during the 2016 Australian census, where thousands of people completed the census online for the first time, and the website could not keep up with the traffic. These incidents normally happen when you least want them to occur: when your business is in the limelight.
There are a few things you can do to keep your website available and prevent web traffic overload.
1. Prepare for website traffic overload by running load tests
A website load test gauges whether a website can sustain a spike in traffic. The test simulates heavy user loads to flag bottlenecks before they arise in a production setting.
Using a load test lets you test capacity before your site is tested by external forces. Run load tests before busy periods begin to make sure your website can manage peak load. If you leverage a content delivery network (CDN), make sure it is also not overloaded. Consider using an external resource to run the load test, ideally someone with experience managing website crashes due to high traffic.
There are various types of load tests you can perform to test performance and scalability. These include:
- Stress Testing: This simulates different conditions for you to see how much traffic your website can handle. It shows the breaking point before it becomes overloaded or crashes. You should set up multiple stress testing tools to simulate as many users as possible.
- Load Testing: This checks whether your website can handle a certain number of concurrent requests. You should also apply different settings on the load testing tool, such as browser types, locations, and operating systems. Using different settings will provide an accurate result of what traffic your website can take before becoming overloaded or crashing.
2. Scale back on WordPress plugins and themes
Plugins and themes are great to use as they can speed up your website’s performance. But if you have too many plugins or themes, they can overload the server with memory usage. For example, if you have 20 plugins each using 20MBs of memory, that will be 400MBs in total. That might not seem like a lot, but it is enough to slow down your website.
Make sure you only use essential plugins or those that speed up your site’s performance, such as caching plugins like WP Super Cache or WPTouch.
Your WordPress theme can also contribute to the poor performance of your business website. If the theme is complex and has many features, your website will be slow. So, it is best to use a simple theme that only has the necessary features.
Do not forget to submit your site for Google PageSpeed Insights and see how you can improve its performance by reducing page load times with plugins and themes.
3. Caching plugins can reduce website traffic overload
Caching is one of the most efficient methods to improve the speed of your website. Caching is when a server stores copies of your website data allowing the server to generate and deliver your website pages much faster to a user’s browser. By requiring the server to use fewer resources to load a page, caching will help reduce Time to First Byte (TTFB) or the time it takes for your website to start loading.
Plugins can speed up load times by caching pages, posts and categories on your site. You can also set different types of cache rules according to how you want it to behave, for example:
- Cache a page’s content only after updating it.
- Always cache posts and pages added within the past week or specific dates.
These rules allow you to control when caching should occur and how much of your site will be cached. Also, make sure that caching works correctly by checking your site from different locations and browsers.
To take full advantage of caching, you should also combine it with other methods such as a CDN which brings cached files closer to users geographically speaking, reducing the distance data has to travel back and forth between servers and clients. A CDN can reduce latency or ‘lag’, which increases during high traffic periods.
4. Keep WordPress comments under control
Comments can also add unexpected load to websites when there is a spike in traffic. It is essential that you keep WordPress comments under control to prevent website traffic overload. You can disable pingbacks and automatic pinging by turning off the ‘Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks)’ option under Settings → Discussion.
You could also install a plugin that will automatically moderate comments, such as WP-Comments Blacklist or Akismet, to keep spam and offensive content off your site by filtering out suspicious links in the comments section. Many other plugins can help you control WordPress comments too, so it is best to experiment with a few.
5. The right hosting plan can prevent website traffic overload
The quality of service you get for web hosting is often proportional to the amount of money you pay. For example, shared hosting will struggle to handle high traffic periods compared with a dedicated or managed server. So, if your site is getting too much web traffic and struggling to keep up, then maybe it is time to look into other plans that are more suitable such as a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or managed hosting.
With dedicated servers, you get complete control over the server. You can install advanced caching plugins and a CDN which can help speed up your site by allowing cached files to load faster from different locations. This way, users worldwide will not have to use as much bandwidth or wait for slower response times to load your website with cached files.
Conetix optimise your website to prevent traffic overload
The right hosting plan can prevent website traffic overload and give you full control of your site’s performance with flexible caching, CDNs and plugins, along with increased processing power so users can load your website quickly without crashing or slowing down.
Conetix provides Australian businesses with fast and reliable hosting on an Australian-based cloud network. We can prepare your website for unprecedented traffic to keep it running when the spotlight is on. Visit our Managed WordPress Hosting page for more on our capabilities.