Most bloggers hope and dream for that big day when they finally create that one, awesome post that goes viral. But is your blog actually ready for that when it actually happens? Will your website survive the “Slashdot effect”? (Does anybody even read Slashdot anymore? I think we need to find a new name for that. From today on it will now be called the “Viral Effect”. Tell your friends.) Leo Laporte actually jokes about this all the time on his weekly radio show because so many websites completely buckle under the weight of his radio audience all rushing to a website whenever he talks about it, denying the owner his or her 15 minutes of fame. How embarrassing.
If your blog or website is hosted on an inexpensive “shared” host (and, if you pay less than $150/mo, it probably is), then you are really at risk. Most shared hosts are sadly overloaded and barely able to operate effectively with nominal traffic. When your big day comes, that shared host might lock up tighter than a clam with lockjaw.
The problem with CMS’s like Drupal and WordPress
Back in the ancient days, websites were built with HTML, and that was it. Fancy websites might even have a picture or two. Any low powered web server could easily handle serving out hundreds of copies of a web page per second because it was nothing more than some simple (HTML) text and a few pictures. Only tiny amounts of memory or CPU processing were required per web-page.
What does all this super-technical mumbo-jumbo mean? It means that if your blog performs “ok” with 100 visitors per hour and slows down a little with 500 visitors per hour what do you think it will do when it suddenly gets slammed with 15,000 hits? Remember that lock-jawed clam I mentioned earlier?
An easy way to viral-effect-proof your blog: Caching
Caching (in this context) makes a copy of your web pages from the database, and re-assembles them into that old-fashioned simple HTML. The page looks the same, feels the same, and tastes the same, but without all of the nasty memory and CPU overhead. The result? Your website will be substantially faster, use far less CPU and memory, and it will be able to withstand a much larger flood of visitors before that lock-jawed clam comes around.
Caching For Drupal and WordPress:
There are two really good cache plugins for WordPress:
- WP Super Cache
- W3 Total Cache
I’m not going to review or compare them. Both are good. Both have some pros and cons. Read up on both, pick the one that meets your needs, and you will have caching up and running in 15 minutes.
Cache modules for Drupal:
- The Boost Module
Boost is probably the best static caching module for Drupal so it’s the only one that I’m going to mention. It takes some reading and a few minutes to setup, but well worth it.
After installing a cache module or plugin be sure to test it!
These caching systems only work for anonymous visitors, so if you are logged-in, you won’t be seeing the cached results. Be sure to log out or use a different browser, clear your local web-browser cache, and check through your website or blog as much as you can. If you have a mobile theme be sure to test everything from a mobile device. Some mobile themes are notorious for not displaying properly with static caching enabled.
Make sure that your blog or website is ready when you finally get your big break! You invest hours in writing, sharing, and social-networking, why not invest 30 minutes to install server caching to be sure that your site can stand up to the heat when it finally all pays off.