CPU and Memory on your Self Hosted WordPress Blog

CPU and memory on your WordPress blog -- what these things mean, how they affect you, and why you should care.

I am using godaddy to host two of my sites, both are wordpress sites. I recently received an e-mail from godaddy saying my cpu usage and physical memory usage is very high (reaching my current maximum limit). They offer the option to buy more resources, but I would like to know if this is really necessary or if there’s another way to get those usages down?

Lola

Hi Lola! Before I go into lowing your CPU and memory usage, I’m first going to talk about what those things are.

What is CPU? How about memory?

You may have heard the terms “CPU” and “memory” (or “RAM”) when purchasing a new computer. These are components that help run your computer, and since servers are basically powerful computers they exist in servers (your web hosting) as well. These components help power your website and keep it running.

The more traffic you have, the more resources you use

The more people you get visiting your site, the more work the server has to do to keep it running. It’s like when you’re using your computer, the more applications you have open the more resources your computer uses to keep the applications running. Has your computer ever gotten laggy when using Photoshop? Or if you just had 10 applications open at the same time? Or if you tried watching a movie WHILE using Photoshop? If your computer gets laggy it’s because it’s maxing out on the CPU and/or RAM. It’s using all the resources it has available and when there are none left, your computer either slows down or can even crash completely (like if an application “unexpectedly quits”).

Your web hosting works exactly the same way. The more people you have browsing your site at the same time, the harder your server has to work in order to serve the content to those people. The harder it’s working, the more resources it uses. But if it uses all the resources it has available, your site will slow way down (or maybe even go offline completely!).

How can you cut back on your usage?

There are a few measures you can take to cut back on your usage, but after a certain point you have to accept that you’re just getting too much traffic. But before we go there, let’s look at the measures you can take.

Use a caching plugin

I’ve already done a post on how caching plugins work so you can read that if you want more details. But to put it simply, a caching plugin can help your site use fewer resources, which will cut back on your CPU and memory usage.

Two caching plugins you can check out are:

However, you may need to experiment with the caching plugin settings a bit. Sometimes using the wrong settings can cause your memory usage to go up. So just keep an eye on your usage levels after first installing.

Review your plugins

Some plugins are “heavier” than others and will use more resources. First, go through your plugin list and deactive and delete any plugins you’re not using. There’s no sense in keeping them around!

Then, review your plugins again, looking at the ones you actually do use. Ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” Some hosts will even show you how much CPU/RAM you use, so you can make note of how much you’re using, deactivate a bunch of plugins, then check back in and see if your usage has dropped. This would be a great way to determine how deactivating plugins could affect your usage.

Switch to Nginx (advanced)

This is only an option if you’re already using a VPS (or dedicated server) instead of normal “shared hosting”.

By default, most websites run on something called “Apache”. Apache has been kind of the standard setup for a long time. However, there is another option called Nginx, which is what I use on my own sites. Nginx is pretty awesome for a few main reasons:

  1. It has a pretty awesome caching options and if you use those you don’t even need a separate WordPress plugin for caching.
  2. Nginx is famous for using significantly fewer resources than Apache.
  3. It is much, much, MUCH faster than Apache, especially for loading static resources like images.

Switching from Apache to Nginx could easily cut your resource usage in half!

So if you’re using a managed VPS, you should be able to ask your hosting company to switch you from Apache to Nginx. It is kind of a process, but if you have a managed host they should be able to sort this out for you. After all, if it’s “managed”, this is the kind of support you’re paying for. 😉

Done all those things & still using a lot of CPU/RAM?

The bigger and more popular your site gets, the more resources it’s going to use. Period. That’s why you don’t see Twitter using shared web hosting (hahaha, imagine that!). Twitter has 271 million monthly active users and 500 million tweets are sent per day. That’s a lot of traffic and lot of resources. This is obviously an extreme example, but my point is that shared hosting or small hosting plans can’t accommodate that kind of traffic. That’s why Twitter probably spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on their servers.

After a certain point, you just have to accept that your site is getting more popular and you have to pay more money in order to deal with the traffic. This is why a lot of sites end up moving to a VPS or even a dedicated server. Not sure what the difference is? You can read my post about comparing shared, VPS, and dedicated hosting.

First, try installing a caching plugin and deleting any plugins you don’t need. If your usage is still high after that, then you will have to pay to upgrade to another package that offers more resources.

What about you guys? Has your web host ever told you that your blog was “using too many resources”?

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I'm a 27 year old California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). I like to inject a little #girlpower into the WordPress development community by teaching women how to be coding badasses. more »

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26 comments

  1. Thanks for answering my question Ashley! And thanks for explaining what CPU and memory usage means. I am still having trouble with high usage for my sites. I did change some things and got my physical memory usage down a bit, but now my input/output usage is very high as well. My limit for physical memory usage is 1 GB is that normal for shared hosting?
    I have a few security plugins that might be heavy, but I don’t dare uninstall any of them as I don’t know which ones I need and which don’t as I don’t.
    Guess now I have to figure out if there’s something more I can do to get the resource usage down or I have to move to more expensive hosting. I also read your post about the different kinds of hosting, which helped me understand that a lot more!

    Lola recently posted: Lola’s Ramblings: Roleplaying
    1. 1GB is actually pretty generous for shared hosting. Normally I’d expect it to be half of that. But at the same time, a lot of web hosts don’t actually give their clients a limit. Instead, they put you on a server that has something like 64G of RAM, and as long as all the RAM isn’t being used on the whole server, you can use as much as you want. You’d only start getting “in trouble” if you’re maxing out the RAM overall and there’s none left for anyone else.

      But WordPress is extremely heavy and it doesn’t surprise me that you’re maxing out that 1GB. Back when I was using Apache, I was on a VPS instead of the server I’m on now, and I was maxing out on 2GB of RAM all the time. WordPress + Apache uses a ton of RAM.

      So I’d say your options are either:

      1. Upgrade your package
      2. Switch to a host that doesn’t give you a hard limit and instead lets you use however much you want, as long as there’s still some left on the server for everyone else

      1. The 1 GB is with the first upgrade, before this it was half of that. I can double my physical memory usage with upgrading another time, but the next upgrade package doesn’t improve the limit of CPU usage, which is another limit I am hitting. So I am still considering whether that it worth to do, maybe I’ll try the next upgrade for a few months to see how it goes.

        So far I haven’t gotten in trouble yet for my high usage, I did receive one warning e-mail from my hosting about hitting the limits of my usage and after that I upgraded and so far didn’t hear anything anymore. But I am just afraid they will shut down my websites without any notice, I am not sure if they can do that though.

        I am running two different websites which both use wordpress, so that also might explain the high usage.

        Lola recently posted: Lola’s Ramblings: Roleplaying
      2. hi ashley..
        i’m using wordpress, and my memory usage is 1.2 gb on average, my site is not high trafic site.. it only got around 5000 user , or 6000pv perday.

        actually before, i use shared hosting, and it constatly hitting 768 mb memory limit, so i move to “wordpress hosting”, with the same amount of traffic, it use 1.2 GB on average.

        so i’m wondering, is 1.2 GB average to much for that kind of traffic.?

  2. Great information today, thanks! I don’t get a lot of traffic on my blog, so this isn’t an issue for me. I was also optimistic when I chose my hosting package, and I upgraded to the next tier for usage. I’m good in case my blog suddenly takes off and thousands of people flock to it lol. Next year I’m already planning on downsizing to the more basic package 🙂

  3. Thank you for those tips! WordPress became such a hug CMS that sometimes, I find it hard to identify what use so much steam. I find it also rather hard to judge if a plugin is reliable or not. Sometimes they seem popular, but they end up having security breach or poor code that slows down the site :/

    Angélique recently posted: The Page Turners by Kevin T. Johns
  4. I am having this issue with Godaddy sine last 5 days. the CPU and Memory Usage goes very high and all my sites go down all of a sudden. I have tried contacting them and My resource level is 2 which has RAM 1024 MB however the issue is still not resolved.

    Please suggest

    1. This is something you have to talk to your host about. You most likely have to upgrade to a more expensive package that allows you to use more resources.

      Your CPU and memory usage will go way up if you start getting more visitors to your site. Or that could also happen if you’re using certain plugins that consume a lot of resources.

    2. Hello Rahul.
      I am also facing problem with godaddy since last week.
      Though I am on level 1, but there was no problem earlier as there are only about 100 visitors per day.

      Even at the time of day when there is no user on my website, the RAM is almost full and become inaccessible.

      Have you found out any solution or have you talked to godaddy about it?

      Please share if you have any solution.

      My email is: himanshudhingra11@gmail.com

  5. Hello Ashley.
    I am also facing problem with godaddy since last week.
    Though I am on level 1, but there was no problem earlier as there are only about 100 visitors per day.

    Even at the time of day when there is no user on my website, the RAM is almost full and become inaccessible.

    Pls tell that is this a wordpress error if RAM is full without any visitor??

    If so, pls suggest a solution.

    PS: I have tried P3 profiler which shows plugin usage, that was OK, and i removed 2 suspicious plugins, but still problem not solved.

  6. Hi Himanshu,
    I have an idea for you. There seems 2-3 sites you are hosting under this shared hosting account or you must be using some plugins like google analytic dashboard, Autoposting Plugins, Auto Social Sharing Plugin or There is a spam referral which is sending virtual traffic to your site.
    I will suggest to uninstall all unwanted plugins and then stop auto posting (manually post the articles) and ask godaddy to upgrade your resource level to 2.
    I am sure this will help you for sure,

    Rahul Chaudhari recently posted: 50% Off on Reebok Classic Proton LP Sneakers
  7. I hve the same issue. No users on a GoDaddy shared server, but suddenty the cpu and memory are maxed. They are no help in resolving it either. I have tried the “one plugin” at a time, but nothing came of it.
    Frustrated. I can’t see upgrading, which I am sure GoDaddy wouldn’t mind, if I don’t know the problem. I don’t even get 100 visitors a day yet.

    1. You could consider moving to a different host. GoDaddy is kind of known for having a lot of issues and generally being unhelpful.

  8. I set up W3 Total Cache as you recommended and am pleased to say that my page load time decreased from 6.8 seconds to less than 2 seconds, but it also caused a small problem. I use Oswald for the body of my blog and other things on the blog, but after activating the plugin, the font no longer applies to the things it’s supposed to. I can’t figure out how to fix it, and that’s distressing me 🙁

  9. My CPU and Memory usage shoot up from time to time even tho I don’t have THAT MUCH traffic! So weird. One minute it’s so high, then the next it’s back to normal. I wonder why? Maybe I should just move to a dedicated server.

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