Optimizing a Dedicated Server for WordPress

May 2015

WordPress has changed the website design industry with its incredibly diverse and scalable content management system. Many large sites are built using WordPress and require dedicated servers to host them. Learning how to optimize your server for efficient WordPress performance is key to ensuring the website is loading as quickly as possible, and can handle surges in site traffic.

dedicated server optimization

Optimal Hardware Requirements

Like a snowflake, each WordPress website is unique and as such, has unique hardware requirements. It’s difficult to outline a ‘one size fits all’ approach to selecting hardware for WordPress, but there are improvements that can be made to increase performance. Choosing Solid State Disks (SSD) vastly improves page loading times. Likewise, selecting a server provider with premium network routes on gigabit connections will deliver pages as efficiently as they can be to a global audience. Investments in a healthy supply of RAM and CPU resources will ensure optimal WordPress performance.

Optimal DNS Settings

What is DNS?

DNS, or the Domain Name System, refers to the system that “translates” an IP address to a website address, and vice versa. When someone types in the website, the DNS directions it to the correct IP and data center.

Leaving Room for DNS

If you’re looking to improve your website’s speed and function, you might be seeing issues from high traffic. Though this is great for business, it might not be for visitors trying to connect to your site. Hosting DNS (domain name system) on a different server than the one your site is being hosted on will deliver a surprisingly large increase in site speeds. This second machine will basically off-load the function that sends people to your website through a server closest to their geographical location. This ensures the request goes through the nearest network and appears instantly.

Consider purchasing a second small dedicated server for high traffic sites to host ‘name servers’ on. This will ensure that sites speeds don’t suffer when system resources are allocated to a surge in traffic.

Web Server Optimization

Using an external Content Delivery Network (CDN) like CloudFlare is a simple and free way to alleviate server load on high traffic sites, and deliver performance increases when you have a global audience. CloudFlare distributes content to a global network of dedicated servers to connect users with the content most close to them, rendering significant performance increases. Services like CloudFlare’s Railgun further optimize and cache content on the origin network. It is worth investigating PHP optimization tools like APC to ensure that PHP files on the local level are being handled in the best way possible. In depth instructions on optimizing Apache can be found at: http://tldp.org/LDP/LGNET/123/vishnu.html.

Optimal WordPress Settings and Plugins

One of the most important aspects of keeping WordPress running efficiently and securely is choosing the right plugins and themes. When it comes to plugins, less is definitely more. Only run the plugins required for the site, and delete unused or outdated plugins. If a site is loading slowly, disabling all of the non-essential plugins one by one can often help identify where problems are being generated. Outdated themes and plugins are the primary source of slow page speeds and can lead to the website being compromised. Only select themes and plugins that are widely used and consistently updated. A plugin that may do exactly what the site requires but is out of date or underdeveloped can make you vulnerable. Installing plugins like WP Super Cache can help improve site speeds by caching content on the local level.

Make It Work for You

Optimizing WordPress can be a difficult task due to all of the various components that can be improved upon such as DNS, PHP, Apache, network optimization, and plugins. We hope we’ve provided a few helpful ideas in achieving blazing fast WordPress site speeds on a dedicated host. There are a number of great resources for those looking to implement further WordPress optimization strategies. The WordPress Optimization Bible outlines dozens of tips and tricks for speeding up WordPress site load times. What tools do you use to speed up your WordPress installation? Share your WordPress optimization techniques in the comments bellow!